(by Benny Benton, Sports Information Director)
WILSON, N.C. – Barton College will add women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s swimming as intercollegiate sports beginning with the 2016-17 season, school officials have announced.
Barton College President Douglas Searcy first shared the news publicly at a quarterly meeting of the institution’s faculty and staff.
“As we add new students to our campus community, we focus on choices that strengthen academic programming, positive campus experiences, and provide mentorship to support student learning and engagement,” Searcy said. “Based on our research, these teams best fit with our current athletics infrastructure, meet our academic and enrollment goals, and contribute to the quality of campus life – the key parameters for adding teams.”
The addition of the two swimming teams and women’s lacrosse will increase the number of intercollegiate sports at Barton to 21.
“Barton College is looking forward to the addition of men’s and women’s swimming and women’s lacrosse for the 2016-17 academic year,” Barton Athletic Director Todd Wilkinson said. “These sports will support the institution’s enrollment initiatives and Barton’s desire to grow in the coming years. Athletic departments are unique in their ability to provide growth in a short amount of time while creating new intercollegiate opportunities for student-athletes. Athletic teams enrich the lives of students and provide for strong connections enhancing retention.”
Barton will become the tenth full member of Conference Carolinas to field a program in women’s lacrosse, and will begin competing against those nine opponents and associate member Chowan University for a league title in the spring of 2017.
“Barton is excited to bring the game of lacrosse, the fastest growing sport in the nation, to the Barton and Wilson communities,” Wilkinson said. “Women’s lacrosse is a natural addition to the Barton sports program, as Conference Carolinas already fields nine teams. We expect this addition to also bring Barton some excellent student-athletes, expand our recruiting footprint, and provide a new game in town.”
Swimming is not yet a league sport, but three other Conference Carolinas programs – Emmanuel College, King University and Limestone College – field both men’s and women’s teams. Converse College competes in women’s swimming as well, and associate member Chowan is beginning a new women’s program in 2016.
A number of other institutions in the two Carolinas and the surrounding states offer swimming programs that could provide Barton with competition. There are 17 NCAA Division II men’s programs in the Southeast among more than 425 nationally at all three NCAA levels, and 19 DII women’s programs in the Southeast among nearly 550 nationally at all NCAA levels.
Those include former conference member Queens University, which claimed its first NCAA Division II national title on both the men’s and women’s sides in 2015.
Barton will begin competition in the fall of 2016. Qualifying takes place throughout the fall and winter, with the national championships held in early March.
“Swimming will allow Barton to attract dedicated and passionate student-athletes that will add value to the Barton community,” Wilkinson said. “Having the Kennedy Recreation and Intramural swimming pool available on campus will be a great recruiting tool, and will provide a quality experience for the swimming student-athletes. With a strong foundation of swimming in the Wilson community and surrounding areas, Barton is enthusiastic about bringing an NCAA Division II swimming program to Eastern North Carolina.”
A national search will begin immediately to hire coaching staffs for the three new sports.