On Sports: Women's Lacrosse Goes D-I Mike Field ----------------- Staff Writer Women's lacrosse is moving to Division I, allowing the university to offer its first women's sports scholarships beginning in the fall semester of 1999. Women's lacrosse will join men's lacrosse as the only NCAA Division I sport at Hopkins. The other 25 teams--12 men's, 12 women's and one coed--play at Division III level, which forbids athletic scholarships to team members. The change was announced May 1 at a press conference in the Hall of Fame room of the Newton H. White Athletic Center. "We are thrilled to make this announcement," said athletics director Thomas Calder. "This decision was reached in working with Deans Benedict and Massa after doing an internal study of our athletics program." The move "assures we are in total compliance with any gender equity issues," said Calder, in an evident reference to past accusations that women's sports receive less institutional support than men's at Hopkins. The women's lacrosse team, he noted, had lost just one Centennial Conference game in the past three years. "We are confident that the women's team will develop the same tradition and history of Division I winning we've seen in the men's," he said. The change in status will go into effect for the 1998-99 school year, after the completion of a required two-year NCAA compliance period. The NCAA requires the planning and transition period before elevating a sport from Division III to Division I status. During that time, a program is required to operate in compliance with the more restrictive of Division III and Division I regulations. Hopkins will begin the compliance period on June 1, 1996, and be eligible to compete at the Division I level in September 1998. The team will begin playing a Division I schedule in the spring of 1999. The first athletic scholarships will become available the following fall. Head coach Janine Tucker declined to specify how many of the scholarships will be made available. "We don't have a number yet," said the Loyola graduate and former All-American who came to Hopkins three years ago after a stint as a Division I assistant coach for the Greyhounds. As part of the move up, Tucker will relinquish her duties as head field hockey coach to take over the lacrosse program full time. A full-time assistant (who will serve as head coach in a second sport) will be hired next year. "This is a fantastic opportunity for women at this institution to play at the highest level," Tucker said. With two years "to get our feet wet and make some adjustments," she singled out her recruiting efforts as the key strategy in making the Blue Jays Division I competitive. "I'll be carefully recruiting in respect to speed, which is the biggest difference between the divisions," she said. Noting that Hopkins' academic reputation would be a great advantage in her recruiting efforts, she divulged at least one of her not-so-secret weapons: "We'll be tapping into alums who have daughters now," she said. In her first two seasons at Hopkins, Tucker guided the Blue Jays to back-to-back Centennial Conference Championships and appearances in the NCAA Division III semifinals. Her 1996 team ended the season 11-5 overall and 9-1 in the Centennial Conference. The Jays will ease into Division I level competition, playing another game against Division I North Carolina next year. For departing senior Jennifer Ward, who holds an all-time Hopkins women's lacrosse scoring record and serves as this year's team captain, the move to Division I "is really exciting." Although she won't be affected by the move, she did get an urgent phone call just as soon as the news leaked out. "It was my dad," she said with a laugh. "He wanted to know if they could arrange to award the scholarships retroactively."
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