Four women’s sports gain varsity status

Four new women’s varsity sports will become a part of GW’s athletic program over the next three years as part of an athletic funding plan passed June 15 by the finance committee of the University’s Board of Trustees.

The plan calls for women’s lacrosse, softball, water polo and squash to be added to GW’s varsity program over the next three years and for $500,000 in new scholarships to be made available for female athletes. One men’s sport – squash – also will be added.

Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak told The Washington Post approval of the plan by the full Board of Trustees is only a formality.

The addition of the sports was spurred by GW’s recent acquisition of Mount Vernon College, Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said. When the all-female population of Mount Vernon is full integrated with GW’s student body by June 1999, the percentage of women on campus will increase drastically. The increase has major implications for GW’s compliance with the federal Title IX law, which prevents gender discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

“This plan has been in the works for about two years,” Kvancz said. “When the MVC merger came along, we were prepared for it. We’ve always wanted to be ahead of the curve when it comes to Title IX.”

Several measuring sticks determine whether a school is in compliance with Title IX, but proportionality between gender breakdown in the student body and athletic funding would come into play at GW. Currently, the University offers 70 women’s athletic scholarships and 58 men’s scholarships, and the percentage of women on campus is just slightly higher than men, according to The Post. The addition of a Mount Vernon campus will raise the percentage of women on campus, and the addition of the new sports should address this shift, Kvancz said.

“Giving these sports varsity status was a very bold move on the part of the University,” said Van Hoffman, head coach of the men’s water polo team and supervisor of the women’s water polo club. “It’s very progressive and they should be commended for acting.”

The first two sports to be phased in will be softball and lacrosse, which will begin in the 1999-2000 academic year.

“Lacrosse in this area is a league sport, and it’s really big around here,” Kvancz said. “Softball is a league sport in the area, too. They were both natural choices.”

Softball’s road from obscurity to varsity status was a short one, said Jason Williams, the Smith Center’s operations supervisor and volunteer supervisor of the softball club. The club started in October 1997.

“I’ve talked to several (players on the team) and most of them were speechless,” Williams said. “I am extremely happy for them. Their goal at the beginning was to become varsity – we just didn’t think it would happen this soon.”

Junior Rachel Meinecke, a player from last year’s club team, said she and her teammates are thrilled at the prospect of softball as a varsity sport.

“(Last year) we had a hard time getting equipment and just trying to get teams to play us,” Meinecke said. “Now that we are going to get some funding, it’s going to be wonderful. We just want to be able to play ball.” Williams said most of the players on the club last year were freshmen and sophomores, so much of the team will be around for softball’s inaugural season.

Women’s water polo, which has been actively pursuing varsity status, will be the third sport to be added when it starts play in the 2000-2001 academic year. Hoffman said he is glad the team has realized its goal of becoming a varsity sport.

“I’m very pleased that the team got varsity status,” He said. “I’d like for the program to get underway sooner than it is scheduled to, but at least this is the first big step.”

Hoffman tempered his enthusiasm with some worries for the future of the new sports.

“My fear is that they (the athletic department) will wait too long to make a hire for the coach and the program won’t get off to a good start,” said Hoffman, who would like to be named the head coach of the women’s water polo team. “It’s even more crucial for the sports that are starting earlier to have a coach soon.”

The other two new sports – women’s and men’s squash – will be phased in during the 2001-2002 academic year.

Correction, (8/24 issue)The article “GW adds new women’s sports” on p. 1 of the June 22 issue of The GW Hatchet should have said varsity women’s water polo will start in the 1999-2000 academic year, varsity women’s lacrosse will start in the 2000-2001 academic year and varsity softball will start in the 2001-2002 academic year.

  • See related editorial: Women’s varsity teams
  • See related story: Women’s water polo pushes for varsity status, March 26, 1998
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