University of Utah adds lacrosse as 8th men’s NCAA Division I sport

Photo courtesy of Utah Lacrosse

Utah will have the most western men’s lacrosse Division I program when it starts play in 2018-19.

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah Board of Trustees has approved adding men’s lacrosse as an NCAA Division I sport. It will be the most western men’s lacrosse program when it starts play in 2018-19.

A $15.6 million gift by “an anonymous lead donor and other benefactors he enlisted” will fund the program, a University of Utah news release said. No public funds will be used for the program.

“It is the first endowed program for University of Utah athletics,” Utah director of athletics Chris Hill said. “Nowadays, adding sports at the college level almost always requires an endowment, which resonated with the university-appointed committee.”

Utah currently competes at the highest level of collegiate athletics in seven men’s sports — baseball, basketball, football, golf, skiing, swimming and diving, and tennis.

Utah has 11 NCAA women’s teams — basketball, beach volleyball, cross country, gymnastics, skiing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball.

“A lot of research and effort went into our decision to add mens lacrosse,” said Hill. “With several great club sports expressing an interest in achieving NCAA status, a working committee was formed to determine the parameters for adding a new sport. Among the factors considered were the potential impact on our other teams, financial self sustainability, compliance with Title IX and popularity in our community. Mens lacrosse met those criteria.”

Men’s club head coach Brian Holman will be retained. He led his team to a 10-7 record this past season. The Utes had a winning record for the first time since 2010 and reached nationals for just the second time, ending a 12-year drought.

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The program will offer 12.6 scholarships — the maximum allowed by the NCAA for men’s lacrosse — for the 40-player squad. The men’s lacrosse season is about 15 games, running from February through May. The Utes will continue to play their home matches at Ute Soccer Field.

No other Pac-12 team competes in men’s lacrosse, so the Utes will be on the lookout for a conference for the program. The two other western teams, Denver and Air Force, play in the Big East and Southern Conference, respectively.