MACON, Ga. (School Release)- The Atlantic Sun Conference announced it will sponsor men's lacrosse as an NCAA Division I championship sport in the spring of 2014, forming a six-team league comprised by Mercer, Jacksonville, Furman, High Point, Richmond and VMI.
"Joining the Atlantic Sun will help Mercer continue to build an identity within the lacrosse community while developing rivalries," Mercer head coach Kyle Hannan said. "Certainly, being able to compete for a conference championship is great for the players. The league will have balance with six young programs that are committed to growing the game and we expect the conference to be extremely competitive from the start."
Men's lacrosse is the A-Sun's third new sport in as many years and the 20th sport sponsored by the league. As a multi-sport conference, the A-Sun is immediately eligible for automatic qualification into the NCAA championship. The NCAA Championships Cabinet determines the format for NCAA championships.
"The winner of the league receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is sort of the icing on the cake," Hannan said. "Moreover, we're extremely proud to be associated with these peer institutions."
Furman, High Point, Richmond and VMI are set to become affiliate members of the conference, with Furman and Richmond playing inaugural seasons in 2013-14.
"We are very proud to continue a tradition of growth in the Atlantic Sun Conference with the addition of men's lacrosse as our newest championship sport," said A-Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart. "The A-Sun continues to be a leader in building opportunities for student-athletes and we are very excited about working with the distinguished institutions who will be joining us to provide this additional conference championship. From our debut as the first Division I conference to sponsor sand volleyball last spring, to this spring's initial women's lacrosse championship and on to men's lacrosse next spring, we are committed to expanding competitive opportunities and forging partnerships that will allow us to meet that goal."
The A-Sun becomes the 10th conference in NCAA Division I to sponsor men's lacrosse as a championship sport, joining the America East, Atlantic Coast, Big East, Colonial Athletic Association, ECAC Lacrosse League, Independents, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Northeast Conference, and the Patriot League. This year, there are 61 NCAA-sanctioned Division I men's lacrosse teams.
The six teams will play a single round robin schedule, with the championship to be scheduled in May of 2014.