Starting in the spring of 2016, the University of Indianapolis will have the only division II lacrosse program in the state of Indiana. Dr. Sue Willey, Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics, said that UIndy decided to add the sport for various important reasons.
“We were looking for ways to raise retention and graduation and student athletes graduate and are retained at a higher rate. Someone asked if we were to add any sports, what would we add? I immediately said lacrosse,” she shared. “[Lacrosse] is one of the fastest growing sports in the Midwest right now. It has always been big out east, but it has really migrated to the Midwest. Also, a part of that plan lends itself to recruiting in different areas of the country. The demographics show that the number of high school students who will be graduating in the near future has declined, so we want to be strategically looking for avenues to gain enrolment.”
In response to the demand for a team, Willey said that the university launched a nationwide search through the NCAA employment site. After searching through many applicants from around the country, Greg Stocks and Jillian Howley were chosen to helm the new men’s and women’s teams, respectively. With Stocks and Howley, the program is already building a solid foundation, as the newlyweds have already worked together at Lake Erie College, before bringing their experience to UIndy.
“You might think that it’s difficult [to work with a spouse], but we are used to working together,” said Howley. “We met at work so it has just become normal.”
Howley and Stocks both explained that the duo has already started to recruit potential Greyhound student athletes for the future teams here at UIndy. Stocks explained that he has reached out to both high school and club programs for potential future players.
“A lot of this year is just going to be recruiting and building interest for UIndy lacrosse,” he said. “Another part [of this year’s plan] is trying to build the schedule.”
Recruiting is not a new experience for Stocks, who had previously built a successful program during his tenure at Lake Erie.
“[Starting a brand new program] is something that I did at my last school. It’s exciting,” he said. “High school students and coaches have come in for visits [at UIndy]. [Lacrosse] is a growing game and a lot of people in the area are excited that UIndy is adding lacrosse. I think that this is a great opportunity.”
Howley was also instrumental in building the women’s program at Lake Erie as a coach. She was also a student athlete at Robert Morris University toward the start of its lacrosse program, which she said gives her good experience to make a successful program.
As of now, the teams are independent while they look for a conference to participate in. The Great Lakes Valley Conference, which is the conference all other UIndy athletics participate in, does not include lacrosse in its list of sports. Both individuals said that they hope to find a conference so that they can qualify for the NCAA division II tournament when the team is fully developed.
Willey said that she believes the university made the right choice in hiring the newlywed couple.
“We are so lucky to have them,” she said. “The Greyhound coaching family has become stronger with those two folks coming on board. We are all looking forward to another great year [of sports].”