The University of Rhode Island Athletics department announced on Dec. 2 that they will be adding women’s lacrosse as its 17th varsity program beginning in the 2024-25 season.

The decision to add women’s lacrosse was both due to its “favorable economic impact” and to keep in compliance with Title IX, according to the release.

Hoping to avoid cutting any existing programs, Rhode Island Director of Athletics Thorr Bjorn saw this as an opportunity to add another participation opportunity for incoming undergraduate students.

“I don’t ever want to cut a sport,” Bjorn said. “I don’t think that was ever the intent when Title IX legislation was enacted.”

With 57 percent of the undergraduate population being women, according to the University’s website, the number of roster spots created lines up with the necessary amount of opportunities the school has to provide for students put in place by Title IX.

One reason why women’s lacrosse was specifically chosen is the existing resources that URI already has in place, according to Bjorn. After the renovation to add turf and lights to Meade Stadium in the summer of 2019, he saw a “great opportunity” for a varsity team to be established.

The timing of the announcement is also significant, as it falls right before the 50th anniversary of Title IX’s inception in 1972. Rather than waiting until later in the year, Bjorn decided to line up the school’s announcement with the occasion in order to recognize the importance of Title IX and its history. 

“We said, ‘Hey, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it now,’” he said. “It’s a great celebratory time to add opportunity, rather than taking it away.”

In addition, lacrosse is already a widely-popular sport in the region, making it easier to recruit players and coaches who are passionate about the game. 

“All in all, it just made perfect sense for us,” Bjorn said. “And the timing seemed to make sense as well.”

One factor that will help the integration of the new team is that it is already an existing sport in the Atlantic 10 conference. Ten out of the 14 conference teams have lacrosse programs, with Rhody becoming the 11th school to add the sport. 

Financially, URI adding women’s lacrosse will be practical, according to Bjorn. With a projected roster of 30-32 players (some of which would be paying some form of tuition), the costs relating to travel, uniforms, staffing and more will be manageable for the school.

“We’re going to have 30 new people coming to campus that wouldn’t have been coming anyway,” Bjorn said. “So we just felt like it made fiscal sense.”

One person that has supported the athletics department throughout the entire process has been University President Marc Parlange, who Bjorn described as “terrific.”

“It has been a tremendous pleasure to witness how dedicated our student athletes are, not only to their sport and studies, but to the entire URI community,” Parlange said in the school’s release. “I look forward to welcoming women’s lacrosse to the University.” 

The next step for implementing the team will be hiring a head coach, which is expected to happen next summer. From there, the rest of the staff will be filled out, while players will be recruited over the next few years until they begin competition in the spring of 2025. 

A public announcement with further details on the program’s inception is expected to be released in early 2022.