Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich announced Thursday morning on Packer and Durham that the school will add women’s lacrosse and women’s gymnastics over the next two years.
“We are thrilled to be able to add these two high-profile women’s sports and expand opportunities for female student-athletes,” Radakovich said. “Over the past six weeks, we’ve heard from many representatives of various potential sports, and spent a great deal of time examining several possibilities and ultimately evaluating which sports would be best for Clemson Athletics. The combination of women’s lacrosse and gymnastics gives us the ability to compete for ACC and NCAA Division I Championships, and we know our community will embrace these new programs. We are grateful to the University for their partnership which will enable us to bring these new opportunities to Clemson.”
The lacrosse program, a spring sport to be played at Historic Riggs Field, is projected to start competition in 2022-23, while gymnastics, set to share Littlejohn Coliseum with basketball, will begin the following academic year. The ACC currently has eight teams competing in women’s lacrosse. While the ACC doesn’t officially have women’s gymnastics, ACC schools like Pittsburgh and North Carolina compete as part of the East Atlantic Gymnastics League.
Clemson first announced it would add “one or more women’s varsity sports” in a press release on April 22. Over the years, the university has seen a growth in its female student population. In 2020, its gender demographic enrollment was reportedly 50-50. Female students were expected to have outnumbered male students this past fall, a steady increase from 2011 when Clemson’s student population was 54.3% male.
Clemson currently has eight male varsity sports and nine varsity female sports programs.
Additionally, after speaking with attorneys, the school agreed to conduct a gender equity review of its collegiate athletics program to be completed no later than July 1, 2022. The plan is part of Clemson’s attempt to strengthen support for women’s athletics and be in compliance with Title IX by the 2023-24 academic year.
In a letter to Clemson fans, Radakovich mentioned the university began its review about eight months ago and had to either add 50 or more female participation opportunities or reduce 50 male participation opportunities. At that point, the school wasn’t financially prepared to accommodate adding to the female participation. Around the same time is when the Tigers’ men’s track and field team was announced to be discontinued.
Revised financial projections, however, showed the pandemic didn’t have as much of an economic impact as the university thought.
“This is the right decision for our University, our Department of Athletics and, most importantly, for the young men and women who proudly wear the Clemson uniform,” said Clemson President Jim Clements via a press release in April. “I am thrilled that we are able to continue these men’s programs and I am excited for the new varsity opportunities we will soon be adding for our female student- athletes.”
Softball was the most recent sport Clemson added in 2017. Its arrival on campus also meant the departure of the women’s diving team, which was the last piece of the Tigers’ aquatic program after the swimming and men’s diving teams were cut in 2012. McHugh Natatorium pool records, however, are still posted on the Tigers’ athletic website.
As nice as it was for Clemson to have a softball team, there was still work to be done before presenting the finished product. It took three years for the Tigers to build a stadium, find a coach and recruit players to join the newly-established squad. Despite the pandemic spoiling the inaugural season in 2020, Clemson enjoyed plenty of success in 2021.
The Tigers won the ACC regular-season title then appeared in the conference tournament championship before earning an NCAA tournament appearance with the help of standout freshman Valerie Cagle.