PITTSBURGH — Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke announced on Thursday that the university will add women’s lacrosse as its 20th varsity sport.
The team will begin play in the 2021-22 school year, with the season starting in the spring of 2022. Lyke said that the importance of lacrosse with in the ACC and the amount of local talent available made women’s lacrosse a natural fit for Pitt athletics.
“It’s really a tremendous opportunity,” she said. “We’ve evaluated sports sponsorship since I’ve been here. This is really a strategic decision based on the growth of the sport. It is the fastest-growing team sport in the country. Obviously, Western Pennsylvania is an incredible hotbed, really, from a recruiting standpoint and from a development standpoint. There’s an awful lot of lacrosse played here.”
Duquesne, Penn State, Robert Morris and St. Francis all have women’s lacrosse teams. Pitt’s club team, which has been in existence in the early 1990s, won a national championship in 2011, were runner-ups in 2018 and have a preseason No. 1 ranking for the 2019 season.
Adding the sport is also an opportunity for Pitt to featured more prominently on the ACC Network, with women’s lacrosse being played in the spring to give Pitt three spring team sports along with track and field and women’s tennis.
Lyke said that she will begin the process of hiring coach after this spring season, and the coach will have a two-year lead time on recruiting.
The team will play in a new lacrosse stadium that will be built as part of Pitt’s Victory Heights project that will completely re-develop the hilltop area of campus that currently is home to Fitzgerald Field House, Trees Hall, Charles L. Cost Sports Center and OC Parking Lot.
Lyke said that fundraising for that project is ongoing and couldn’t pinpoint an exact footprint for where a lacrosse stadium will fit into the plans. She thanked the university and chancellor Patrick Gallagher for his support for the athletic department’s vision to bring Pitt’s facilities up to par with the rest of the conference.
Pitt will be the ninth ACC team to sponsor women’s lacrosse, joining Boston College, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
“The collection of ACC women’s lacrosse programs is extremely prestigious and we are pleased to have Pitt joining this elite group beginning with the 2021-22 season,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said in a press release. “The sport of women’s lacrosse continues to experience positive growth, which directly creates additional opportunities for prospective student-athletes. This announcement is a win for Pitt, the ACC and our future student-athletes.”
Pitt hasn’t added a varsity sport since softball was added in 1998. Of Pitt’s 20 sports, nine will be men’s sports and 11 will be women’s sports. Women’s lacrosse carries a 12-scholarship maximum.
Lyke said that there is not currently a plan to add men’s lacrosse, or any other sport, to Pitt’s programs, and that there will not be a deletion of a sport. Here are her full remarks: