Building on an athletic tradition that is less than a decade old and already includes a Division III men's lacrosse national championship, Stevenson University will add men's and women's swimming to its growing stable of Division III varsity sports for the 2014-15 school year.
"Stevenson University is in a growth mode, and we recognize the value of athletics in students' educations," Brett Adams, director of athletics, said in a statement. "Swimming will be our 24th and 25th NCAA Division III varsity sports and will boast some of the strongest academic students with a wide variety of interests in different majors."
According to a Stevenson press release, the swimming teams will compete in the Middle Atlantic Conference and face Albright, Arcadia, Fairleigh Dickinson-Florham, Hood, King's (Pa.), Lebanon Valley, Lycoming, Messiah, Misericordia and Widener.
"We're a growing athletic department," associate athletic director and head men's lacrosse coach Paul Cantabene said. "We're looking to build on our successes, and have recently added [ice] hockey. Swimming is a natural evolution. Swimmers are good students, career-oriented."
Cantabene said a coaching search was under way for someone to lead both teams, and university officials were seeking a pool facility.
"We're working out the pool situation," he said. "We've identified a few places close to campus, including the Rosewood property. There is a lot of excitement around this."
The Baltimore area, home to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and the North Baltimore Aquatic Club, has played an integral role in reenergizing the sport. In addition to Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in the history of the sport, other NBAC Olympians include Katie Hoff, Allison Schmitt and Conor Dwyer. As a result, Cantebene said, there are a lot of swimmers already in the area who may want to enroll at Stevenson.
"Swimming is very popular in our area," he said, "and it's definitely a sexy sport to participate in. If Michael Phelps wants to be involved in our program, we'd be open to talking with him."
Stevenson University is the third-largest independent university in Maryland, with more than 4,400 students pursuing bachelor's, master's and adult accelerated degrees. Known for its career focus at locations in Stevenson and Owings Mills, the school also has a growing a reputation for its athletics programs.
"Over time, we hope to challenge the conference and hopefully have student athletes representing the University at the national level," Adams said in a statement. "We look forward to the competition."