The University of Utah will sponsor men’s lacrosse as an NCAA sport starting in the 2018-19 season, the school announced Friday.

Utah’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the decision Friday morning.

Men’s lacrosse already competes as a club sport at Utah, which will continue one more season through the 2017-18 school year, the school said in a news release.

The decision gives the Utes the third Division-I lacrosse program west of the Mississippi, joining Denver and Air Force. It also comes on the heels of the Utah High School Activities Association sponsoring both boys and girls lacrosse beginning in the 2019-20 school year, an announcement it made in May.

Men’s lacrosse is Utah’s 20th NCAA sport (eight men’s programs and 12 women’s). It’s the first new sport since the Utes added women’s soccer in 1995, according to the news release. Utah began a beach volleyball team in 2017, but it drew players and coaches from the existing volleyball program.

The program was endowed through a $15.6 million gift funded by an anonymous lead donor and other benefactors, and no state or university funds will be used to support the program, according to the school.

“Among the factors considered were the potential impact on our other teams, financial self sustainability, compliance with Title IX and popularity in our community,” Utah athletic director Chris Hill said in the release. “Men’s lacrosse met those criteria. It is the first endowed program for University of Utah athletics. Nowadays, adding sports at the college level almost always requires an endowment, which resonated with the University-appointed committee.”

The Utes will retain current club lacrosse head coach Brian Holman to lead the program. Holman, a former eight-year North Carolina assistant coach, helped lead UNC to the 2016 NCAA Championship before accepting the head club coaching position at Utah, according to the school.

Utah lacrosse plans to pursue conference affiliation, according to the news release. Denver currently plays in the Big East with northeastern schools like Villanova and Georgetown, while Air Force plays in the SoCon with schools in Kentucky, Virginia and Florida. There are currently three independent schools in Division-I men’s lacrosse.

Utah lacrosse will play its games at Ute Soccer Field.

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