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Michigan Lacrosse Officially Upgrades to Division I

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Here come the Wolverines.

Tim from Great Lax State had the news early yesterday and the official announcement came out today: Michigan is upgrading its men's lacrosse program from the MCLA to NCAA Division I starting next spring (2012).

From the press release:

"Our department has carefully considered the elevation of lacrosse to varsity status, and we feel the time is right to make this move," said Brandon. "The men's program is further developed based on their history of success in the club-varsity system. We plan to build upon that success at the next level. Our women's program will require more time to build, but I am confident within a reasonable timeframe we will become competitive nationally in women's lacrosse."

Michigan is the first Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conference school to add men's lacrosse since Notre Dame added the sport in 1980 and started competition in 1981. Michigan will join Ohio State and Penn State as the only schools in the Big Ten Conference to sponsor men's lacrosse.

In terms of funding and support from the university, the following appears to be truth:

  • The university will fund the maximum of 12.6 scholarships for men's lacrosse.
  • The university will provide full coaching and staff positions.  John Paul is the assumed choice to lead the varsity program after guiding the club team for 14 seasons.  Michigan will need to list the open position, however, as it is a public institution.
  • The university is planning on building a lacrosse-only facility for the program but it will not be ready for three years. The program will utilize the Big House, Oosterbaan, Schembechler, and Soccer fields.
  • The program's operating budget -- which was already sizable -- will not diminish.  Rather, it is expected to grow.

Michigan has also petitioned the ECAC for membership and, as it appears, acceptance will be a mere formality. 

The only question that remains is how will the Wolverines do next year?  The upgrade in competition is going to be fierce, but with the way the program has operated in the not-too-distant-past as a virtual varsity outfit, it may not be out of the question that Michigan legitimately competes for an NCAA Tournament birth in four years or so.