It has been a tough time in intercollegiate athletics. With drastically reduced revenue due to the pandemic, colleges and universities have been dropping sports. So, it came as somewhat of a surprise when Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey announced the addition of two sports: men’s volleyball, set to debut in spring 2022, and women’s lacrosse, slated to begin in the 2022-23 school year. These are the first sports to be added since 2006.
“We felt this was a time to think boldly,” said director of athletics Bradford Hurlbut. “We knew that all programs of all sizes are having to do a lot of soul searching. We had been in a process where we were doing a strategic plan—I was hired in February of 2019—and we were making some headway. Part of that was to grow our offerings.
“Then the pandemic hit,” he continued. “Like everybody we were looking at these deficits…We took a different approach. We decided that we would get back to our strategic plan—the part that talked about adding sports—and do a deep dive in what would make the best sense for us.”
Division I men’s volleyball has been on the decline for the past two decades. Private foundations have been stepping up to encourage the launch of new programs. The First Point Volleyball Foundation is providing the Knights a $200,000 grant over four years to develop the program. Hurlbut said FDU will apply for membership with American Volleyball Coaches Association. The members in that conference are Harvard, Princeton, NJIT, St. Francis, Penn State and Sacred Heart.
“If you look at our sports offerings and where we’re located, lacrosse also made sense,” said Hurlbut. “It fits into the demographic. We’re the ninth school in the NEC [Northeast Conference] to sponsor women’s lacrosse.
“We’re in the hotbed of the lacrosse world,” he added. “It’s so athletic. It’s a physical game. It’s an exciting game. It’s fast. It fits perfectly into FDU and this area.”
Administration has already started reviewing resumes for the men’s volleyball head coach position. Building the lacrosse program will take a bit longer.
“It is exciting,” said Hurlbut. “From a standpoint of recruitment to our campus, adding sports serves the growth. It’s more opportunities for young men and women to be able to continue their educations and play the sports that they love. We hope that people stay local. We want to be able to recruit New Jersey better. It fits into what our university is about.”