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LEXINGTON, Va. - Virginia Military Institute Athletic Director Donny White announced Monday that the Institute's intercollegiate athletic program will add Water Polo to sports sponsored for women's athletics.

Plans will proceed to hire a coach by July 1, 2010 with competition to begin during the 2011-12 academic year. The addition of Water Polo will be VMI's seventh NCAA intercollegiate sport sponsored for women.

The decision to initiate a women's Water Polo program was based on a study conducted by a committee composed of athletic administrators, faculty, cadets, alumni, and Board of Visitors members. The committee began its research last September examining numerous pros and cons of each team sport as they may pertain to implementation at VMI. The primary focus of the study evaluated the new sport's potential competitive success, operational and facility cost, acceptance by the Corps as a sport that fits well with the VMI culture, and the impact of the new sport on existing VMI sports in relationship to practice and competition facility needs. The committee presented two choices for the addition of a new women's sport and VMI Superintendent General J.H. Binford Peay III made the final decision in consultation with White.

"We are pleased to add Water Polo to our women's intercollegiate sports programs," said White. "The decision was based on extensive research by our committee and we felt that it would be the best fit for the Institute at this time. We are also excited about the possibility of our women's swimming program being enhanced with the addition of Water Polo to the sports VMI sponsors on the NCAA Division I level." 

Women's Water Polo, a traditional spring sport season, has been sponsored as a Championship sport by the NCAA since 2001, although competition itself has taken place much longer. Currently, there are 33 Division I programs, eight Division II programs, and 19 Division III teams.

Most colleges that field the sport are located either on the East or West coasts. Water Polo requires a minimum of 10 contests per season and they can be scheduled against teams from all three divisions. Conference affiliation options on the East Coast include the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Collegiate Water Polo Association. 

The 2009 NCAA Championships were held in College Park, Md. and were hosted by the University of Maryland. Teams from all three divisions competed for the title, won by UCLA for the fifth straight year. Water Polo also became a women's Olympic sport in 2000, signifying its rise in popularity.

When it begins competition, Water Polo will join Soccer, Cross Country, Indoor Track, Swimming and Diving, Outdoor Track and Field, and Rifle as women's NCAA sports fielded by VMI.