Athletic Director Jack Graham continues to make his mark on the CSU athletic landscape.
CSU will add women’s soccer for the 2013 season as a Division I sport while also discontinuing the school’s water polo program, the athletic department announced Thursday.
“The decision to close down the water polo program and bring up women’s soccer were independent decisions,” Graham said.
The soccer team will compete in the Mountain West and join the eight other teams in the conference. CSU was the only current Mountain West institution not to sponsor soccer before this announcement.
The soccer team will sponsor 14 scholarships for the team, rolled out in increments of four of five over the next three years.
“This is a great step for women’s sports at Colorado State–and a reflection of the passion for competitive soccer here in Colorado and the West,” CSU president Tony Frank said. “We’re particularly excited about the opportunities this creates for what we know is an outstanding group of student-athletes who previously haven’t had a chance to compete for the Rams.”
The team will play its games at the Fort Collins Soccer club’s soccer complex north of Fort Collins near the Agricultural research , Development, and Education Center and practice at existing on-campus facilities while permanent practice and competition site options are considered.
The search for a women’s soccer coach began immediately after the athletic department made the joint announcement Thursday morning, and Graham will follow the same process it used in filling all other coaching vacancies.
The water polo program began in 2005 and will finish out this season in the Western Water Polo Association before being discontinued.
Graham primarily cited the fact that the Mountain West doesn’t sponsor water polo and Colorado doesn’t have any high school water polo teams so all recruits must come from out of state.
The athletic department informed the water polo coaching staff of the decision after practice Wednesday evening, and they told their players after practice Thursday morning.
“There’s not really a good way to take what happened immediately. The first burst of emotions that hit you is pure shock, you get this sense of disbelief.”
CSU will continue to honor the scholarships it has provided to current water polo athletes if they decide to remain enrolled at the university.
Should current water polo players decide to transfer, they will be immediately eligible for competition at other universities.
“One of first questions I asked myself when I became athletic director was what’s the logic behind sponsoring a water polo program. Why is it good for university and the community?” Graham said. “Data around water polo was mounting in a very very pejorative way suggesting we’re not driving any meaningful benefit for university and community. “
The question of whether to transfer or remain at CSU hasn’t even entered the minds of the water polo team, however, as they remain focused on finishing the rest of their season and representing the university well.
“We’re here to be competitors. It’s adding fuel to our girls to win this season and have a successful season,” CSU water polo coach Mike Moody said. “Our goal before all of this started was to have a winning season and crack into the top 20 and get the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.”
Women’s soccer currently competes at CSU as a sport club in the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association. The team won national championships in 1996-6 and 1999 and advanced to the national tournament last season.
Players on the current club team and any others interested in joining the team will have the opportunity to walk on in open tryouts due to the initial sparse availability of scholarships during the program’s infancy.
“There’s bound to be a handful of competitive women on our campus that will be able to contribute to this team,” Graham said.
The sport club will continue its operations next season even though the Division I program will exist.
“I don’t know if there’s a lot of girls on the team that could play D-1. If that’s possible we would totally make that happen,” senior Katherine Fonte said. “It’s something we do because we’re a family. Soccer is kind of a way of life for us.”