LakePoint, Ga. – The ASUN Conference welcomed the University of Akron as its newest women's lacrosse affiliate, expanding the league to seven teams beginning in the 2020 season. The Zips announced their intentions to field a new Division I women's lacrosse program in the 2019-20 academic year.
The ASUN Conference continues action at the forefront of growth in women's lacrosse, steadily growing since beginning play with five members in 2012-13 and ultimately splitting with the Southern Conference this season. Akron becomes the ninth affiliate for ASUN women's lacrosse over the past five years. The Zips are the second member from Ohio in the ASUN, following the announcement of Kent State as an affiliate beginning next year.
"We are excited to welcome the University of Akron as our latest ASUN women's lacrosse affiliate member," ASUN Commissioner Ted Gumbart stated. "Women's lacrosse has seen tremendous growth in the past years and continues to be one of the fastest growing sports in the NCAA. Akron's decision to add a women's lacrosse program is another good example of that growth. Our first Beam in the ASUN is Students First, and we pride ourselves on expanding opportunities for our student-athletes; I'm proud to see the ASUN Connect with Akron, see our women's lacrosse membership Rise, and make a broader Impact on one of the nation's fastest growing sports," added Gumbart, using all four ASUN Beams [Students First, Rise, Connect, Impact] in one sentence.
The growth in the ASUN and in NCAA Division I women's lacrosse overall led to a new partnership with the Southern Conference, which provides student-athletes two championship opportunities with both conferences sponsoring the sport beginning in 2018. Akron is the latest affiliate to join this collaboration and will participate in the ASUN Conference alongside Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Stetson, Coastal Carolina, Howard and Kent State.
The Southern Conference consists of Furman, Mercer, Wofford, Central Michigan, Detroit Mercy and Delaware State, all former ASUN affiliate members. Under the current arrangement, all ASUN affiliate members will continue to have access to a women's lacrosse championship, both conferences will be NCAA AQ eligible, and cross-over scheduling allows all teams to maintain a balanced home/away schedule coordinated to minimize missed class time and travel expense.
"Akron is excited about expanding our competitive opportunities to include student-athletes in the sport of women's lacrosse, and our optimism is fueled in large part by the wonderful home in the ASUN Conference." said Akron's Director of Athletics Larry Williams. "When we were deliberating about the possibility of beginning this program, a key consideration was scheduling; as a growing sport, competitive options are more limited. Clearly the ASUN has demonstrated an admirable commitment to fostering the expansion of this sport, and we are honored to join the impressive institutions of this conference in pursuing this endeavor."
ASUN Conference women's lacrosse competition saw Coastal Carolina and Jacksonville share a regular season title last year, with JU's Dolphins taking the tournament title and NCAA Automatic Bid. The ASUN finished 10th in last year's RPI, the highest league ranking in its five-year history.