Averett University adding men's and women's lacrosse, wrestling

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DANVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) Averett University is expanding its sports programs.

The school announced Thursday that it is adding men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse, and wrestling for the 2017-18 school year.

That will bring the total number of athletic programs at Averett University to 16.

Here is the news release from Averett University:

Through the support of an anonymous donor, Averett University is proud to announce the addition of three NCAA Division III varsity athletics programs — men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse and men’s wrestling. All three are scheduled to begin play during the 2017-18 academic year.

Averett is launching its 14th, 15th and 16th varsity programs, respectively, as part of the university’s “Averett 2020” strategic plan to increase enrollment and expand the geographic diversity of its student population. The three programs are expected to generate 90 new students within four years, which will assist Averett in its aspiration for 1,100 traditional students.

“It is an exciting time at Averett University as we drive strategic growth centered on our students’ success and their enhanced experience,” said Dr. Tiffany M. Franks, President of Averett University. “We are so very appreciative of this most generous gift that will help us achieve new levels of athletic and academic excellence. Adding these sports will help us to diversify our enrollment pipelines by attracting prospective students from geographical regions outside of Averett’s traditionally targeted territories.”

The initial phase of each sport’s implementation timeline includes an immediate national search for the hiring of a head coach, development strategies and student-athlete recruitment. A portion of the $500,000 gift will fund the startup of these three programs. The announcement marks the first addition of varsity sports at Averett since women’s lacrosse, which was offered for five seasons, initially began play in the 2002-03 academic year.

Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports nationally. At least 17 NCAA schools will begin men’s lacrosse programs over the next two academic years, including 12 at the Division III level. On the women’s side, 23 schools have announced the creation of lacrosse programs, including nine in Division III.

Wrestling has also seen growth at the Division III level. Six men’s wrestling programs are scheduled to begin play in 2016-17, with three non-NCAA programs scheduled to transition to Division III in the next three years.

“Through the addition of these three programs, Averett Athletics’ expansion is an integral part of the university’s strategic growth,” said Director of Athletics Meg Stevens. “To establish the proper foundation for sports expansion, we have thoughtfully and carefully positioned ourselves well through our comprehensive planning. We’ve done our research, and these are three in-demand sports that perfectly fit our university profile.”

In 2015-16, seven USA South institutions competed in women’s lacrosse, which is sponsored by the league. Although not sponsored by USA South, five conference schools currently offer men’s lacrosse and three field men’s wrestling programs. Starting in 2017-18, the USA South is scheduled to have enough participating schools to sponsor men’s lacrosse. Brevard College and Pfeiffer University, which have men’s and women’s lacrosse and are transitioning to Division III, will join the USA South during the 2017-18 academic calendar, the same time Averett’s programs will begin play.

The return of women’s lacrosse and the addition of men’s lacrosse also coincide with Averett’s new facilities. Construction of the $5.5 million Frank R. Campbell Stadium is scheduled to be completed this summer and will be the home to the university’s lacrosse programs, as well as football and soccer. In 2014, the venue received upgrades of lights and state-of-the-art field turf to Daly Field. The wrestling program will compete in the E. Stuart James Grant Center, which is one of the top Division III gyms in the southeast.