K-State to Add Women's Soccer in Fall of 2016

MANHATTAN, Kan. - In keeping with K-State's commitment to improving opportunities for female student-athletes, Athletics Director John Currie  announced that K-State will add the school's first-ever intercollegiate women's soccer program, allowing the Wildcat athletics program to maintain its sponsorship of 16 varsity sports as required by NCAA bylaw 20.9.6. Currie's recommendations were approved Monday by the K-State Athletics, Inc. Board of Directors and President Kirk Schulz.

When Wildcat intercollegiate soccer launches in the fall of 2016, K-State will become the final team in the 10-school Big 12 Conference to compete in the sport. More than 320 Division I schools sponsor women's soccer, making it the fourth-most sponsored women's sport in Division I behind only basketball, volleyball and cross-country, while more than 26,000 student-athletes across the country are currently playing Division I women's soccer.

Currie said a national search for the program's first head coach will begin in January 2015, with the 2015-16 academic year used to complete a staff and recruit a roster that will eventually range between 25-30 student-athletes. The average national roster size in Division I is 27.2 participants. K-State's ongoing commitment to Title IX will also be reflected with the full funding of the 14 women's soccer scholarships permitted by the NCAA.

"The sport of soccer is one of the most popular, not only in the Midwest but across the world, and is a natural fit for us with nearly 4,000 high school young women participating throughout the state of Kansas," Currie said. "Kansas City has become the epicenter of U.S. Soccer with the emergence and popularity of Sporting KC and FC Kansas City in addition to becoming the future home of the U.S. National Team. We are excited for our fans and the residents of Kansas to bring women's soccer to K-State and the Manhattan community."

Soccer's importance in the Big 12 region was underscored in 2013 when the league announced a partnership with Sporting KC to upgrade the MLS club's practice facility in Kansas City's historic Swope Park to serve as an annual host for the Big 12 women's postseason tournament. This year's edition will be played November 5-9.  

"K-State women's soccer will be completing universal sponsorship of the world's most popular sport in one the very best women's leagues in the country," said Senior Associate Athletics Director Jill Shields. "It will be exciting for our student-athletes and fans to participate in the annual Big 12 tournament right here in our home territory."

Plans for K-State's soccer practice and competition facilities are being studied as the department is initiating discussions with the Student Governing Association about possible on-campus options including the potential of utilizing historic Memorial Stadium for home matches or constructing a facility in an existing location.

K-State Athletics sponsors 16 Division I programs -- seven men's and nine women's teams -- that compete in the Big 12 Conference. Driving toward the vision of a Model Intercollegiate Athletics Program, K-State continues to produce championship athletic performances both on the field and in the classroom, while $190 million in comprehensive facility improvements -- $125 million of which have been completed in the last 30 months including the West Stadium Center, Basketball Training Facility, Intercollegiate Rowing Facility and Mike Goss Tennis Stadium - provide a world-class experience for all 242 female and 236 male Wildcat student-athletes.


FAQs
What are the factors the led to adding soccer?
We believe that soccer is the best option for K-State. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and one that is played by almost 4,000 high school young women in the state of Kansas. More than 320 schools and 26,000 student-athletes play soccer at the Division I level, making it the fourth-most widely-sponsored women's sport in Division I behind only basketball, volleyball and cross-country. Kansas City has also become the epicenter of U.S. Soccer with the emergence and popularity of Sporting KC and FC Kansas City in addition to becoming the future home of the U.S. National Team. Soccer's importance in the Big 12 region was underscored in 2013 when the league announced a partnership with Sporting KC to upgrade the MLS club's practice facility in Kansas City's historic Swope Park to serve as an annual host for the Big 12 women's postseason tournament.   

What are the Title IX implications, if any?
We have maintained an ongoing commitment to Title IX compliance.  The addition of women's soccer and 14 scholarships, our strong women's participation numbers in our other varsity sports and recent significant capital and facility enhancements for our women's programs, reflect that commitment.  We continue to engage an outside Title IX expert for periodic reviews of our compliance.

Where will the soccer team play?
One of the many decisions we must make in the near future is to finalize a facility for the soccer program. We are beginning discussions with the SGA as well as our staff about possible locations and solutions both on-campus and in our current facility infrastructure.

Talk us through the details of the transition period between the two sports.
The equestrian team will compete through the 2015-16 season, and we will hire our new soccer head coach sometime in the spring of 2015. The new coach will hire a staff and recruit a roster next year, phasing in the maximum of 14 scholarships permitted by the NCAA, with exhibition competition beginning as early as the fall of 2016.  Eventually we will play a full Big 12 schedule and compete for the championship.