In 2012, there will be 92 women’s lacrosse teams competing in Division I. In 2013, the sport is expected to reach 101 participants with the addition of Southern California, Marquette, Delaware State, Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, Stetson, Campbell and Kennesaw State. In 2014, Mercer (Ga.) University’s team will debut with Colorado, and in 2015, Furman (S.C.) University’s varsity team will debut.
The expansion has been approved by the Division I championship and sports management cabinet, but must pass through several layers of approval, including the budget committee, before it becomes reality.
The reason for the proposed expansion, according to NCAA associate director or championships and alliances D’Ann Keller, is to make sure all conferences that are eligible to receive an automatic qualifying bid to the tournament are actually getting an AQ in the tournament. Currently, only five conference winners – from the ACC, Big East, ALC, America East and Ivy League – automatically make the field. The other six AQs advance to play-in games.
An NCAA bylaw states that 50 percent of the bracket must be filled with at-large bids, forcing some automatic qualifiers to play play-in games to get into the 16-team field. And with the growing number of Division I programs over the next couple of years, the number of conferences with automatic qualifiers could increase, leading to potentially more play-in games if the bracket is not expanded.