Rod Beard, Detroit News staff writer
Varsity lacrosse is coming to the University of Michigan.
Athletic director Dave Brandon announced Wednesday that the men's and women's lacrosse teams — which had been club sports — would be elevated to Division I varsity sports. The men's team will begin competition next school year and the women will begin in 2012-13.
"We've identified lacrosse as the fastest growing sport in America and it's certainly the fastest growing sport among high schools in Michigan," Brandon said.
Brandon said U-M has plans to build a stand-alone facility specifically for lacrosse.
"It's a big day, a positive day and one that we've looked forward to for a long time," Brandon said.
It's the first varsity teams added at Michigan since men's soccer and women's water polo in 2000-01. Michigan will now have 29 varsity teams — 14 men's and 15 women's.
Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State are the only Big Ten teams with varsity men's lacrosse.
"Our department has carefully considered the elevation of lacrosse to varsity status and we feel the time is right to make this move," Brandon said. "The men's program is further developed based on their history of success in the club-varsity system. We plan to build upon that success at the next level. Our women's program will require more time to build, but I am confident within a reasonable timeframe we will become competitive nationally in women's lacrosse."
Brandon said the men's team has applied to join the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Current teams in that conference are Ohio State, Denver, Air Force, Loyola (Md.), Fairfield, Hobart and Bellarmine.
The U-M men's lacrosse club team has been coached by John Paul the past 14 seasons; his record is 241-44. Michigan will soon finalize decisions regarding coaches and staff for its varsity teams.
The U-M club team has been competing in the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA). Michigan has won three of the last four Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) national championships (2008, 2009, 2010).
The U-M women's team has applied to join the American Lacrosse Conference, which includes Florida, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State and Vanderbilt.
Other Big Ten teams that compete in varsity women's lacrosse are Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State.
Photo caption: Chad Carroll of Cincinnati was a member of Michigan's club team this season. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)