ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin announced today the formation of a tiered club sports system. Under the new system club teams that meet a newly established set of criteria can petition for elevation to "club varsity" status.
Men's rowing and men's lacrosse have been confirmed as the first two club teams to be elevated, effective this fall. Both teams are coached by full-time coaches and their staffs, and compete against national competition. John Paul coaches the lacrosse team while Gregg Hartsuff coaches the men's rowing team.
The new system has been established to recognize and increase support for club sports teams that have reached a level of budget, organization and competition that is similar to varsity levels. Club varsity squads are not necessarily closer to being elevated to full varsity status, and will remain for the time being primarily self-funded and administered through the Department of Recreational Sports. However, the designation will give these teams a closer relationship to the U-M athletic department.
After a one-year trial run with rowing and lacrosse, every intercollegiate club sport will have the opportunity to petition for club varsity status. Each team's eligibility and acceptance will be based on a set of criteria that includes budget, coaching, scheduling, practice time and student-athlete eligibility. Several women's club teams, including ice hockey and figure skating, have been identified as possible candidates in 2001.
The men's rowing team was established in 1976 and has been nationally competitive with primarily walk-on athletes. This past season men's rowing finished ninth of the 45 programs at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championships. Michigan was one of only two club programs to finish in the top 20 in 2000. Collegiate men's rowing is governed by the IRA, which has determined club sports can compete if they follow the version of the NCAA rules that the IRA adopts. For the past four years the Michigan men have been the highest placing club at the IRA's, and have defeated many fully supported varsity programs. Several Michigan men's rowers have gone on to represent the United States in international competition, most recently 2000 graduate Steve Warner, who won a gold medal in the World Championships in August.
The men's lacrosse team, which was established in 1965, draws many players who were recruited by varsity programs out of high school but choose Michigan for its combination of academic and athletic strengths. The team competes against other similar "virtual varsity" club teams in the United States Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates. Last year, men's lacrosse compiled a 20-6 record en route to a fifth-place national ranking and a one-goal loss in the national quarterfinals. The lacrosse team's home field is Oosterbaan Fieldhouse, where it regularly draws between 300-1,000 fans for home games.
Men's lacrosse head coach John Paul expressed excitement over the changes. "We've been pushing for this for some time, so it's gratifying to see that our guys will finally be recognized for all the hard work they put in. They work so hard on the field and in the classroom to represent Michigan well. It's great to see the University acknowledge that dedication."
U-M Men's Rowing Club Team
U-M Men's Lacrosse Club Team
Contact: Bruce Madej (734) 763-4423