ABILENE, Texas — McMurry University announced today that the sport of softball would be added to its women's intercollegiate programs, beginning in 2018. The addition of softball will bring to 20 the number of sports sponsored by the War Hawks.
"This is another example of McMurry momentum," Director of Athletics Sam Ferguson said. "The University is growing in students, in programs, and now also in athletics opportunities.
"Softball is one of the most popular sports in the state of Texas. In fact, nearly 34,000 girls are competing at the high school level. It's a great fit at McMurry, because we know that there is an abundance of talent right here in our backyard. We are also excited about the type of scholar-athlete softball will attract. According to NCAA data, softball players are some of the most academically successful. Finally, the addition of this important program will help us take another step in the right direction from a Title IX standpoint. This addition is long overdue."
The plan is to hire a head coach by this coming January 2017 to begin recruiting for the following school year and build a schedule. The War Hawks will – initially – play their home games on a local city of Abilene facility and, by the third year, build an on-campus field. Beyond that, upgrade projects will include press box facilities, permanent seating and team areas/offices.
"The American Southwest Conference congratulates McMurry University on bringing softball to its intercollegiate athletics program," said Amy Carlton, ASC commissioner. "The War Hawks' addition provides women an avenue to continue academic pursuits while participating in a sport they enjoy within one of the top NCAA Division III softball conferences."
Softball sponsorship in the ASC will grow to 13 teams and becomes the seventh conference championship sport to be supported at every member institution. Women's soccer, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's tennis, and baseball are ASC sports sponsored by all ASC members. By conference rule and with full member sponsorship of softball, the ASC Softball Championship Tournament format will shift to eight-team double-elimination with the 2018 tournament.
When it begins play in 2017-18, game versus McMurry will count toward ASC standings and the War Hawks will be eligible for the regular-season conference title in addition to individual awards. McMurry will remain ineligible for the conference tournament until it reaches NCAA Division III active member status (expected in 2018-19). The 2018 season will also celebrate the 20th year of ASC softball and the conference tournament.
In its first season in 2018, in addition to the regular season ASC conference crown, McM softball would be eligible to compete in the National Christian College Athletic Association's regional and national championships. Currently, McMurry holds dual affiliation with the NCCAA and NCAA Division III.
In the state of Texas there are 33,920 high school girls competing in softball at the UIL level. It is one of the most popular high school sports in the state. It is also one of the most popular intercollegiate sports in this region at the Division III level. Further, there are 364,103 girls competing in softball in the United States. Only basketball, track & field, and volleyball have more female participants than softball in Texas.
McMurry was the last Division III program in the state of Texas that didn't offer softball. Between the American Southwest Conference and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference there are 19 of 21 institutions that sponsor softball. Expanding on softball's presence in Division III, it is also worth noting that there are only 27 of 443 DIII institutions nationwide that do not participate in softball. In most cases, climate is the deterring factor.
"It's exciting to think about building a program from the ground up," Ferguson said. "Those opportunities do not come often in the life of a university. We are blessed to have tremendous supporters in the form of donors, alumni, and University administrators who allow us to dream big and enjoy growth."
— Courtesy McMurry Sports Information