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Ute lacrosse team gearing up for transition to sanctioned sport

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah men's lacrosse team is gearing up for the transition from a club team into a NCAA-sanctioned sport on July 1. The Utes will compete as a Div. I sport in the 2018-2019 season, joining Denver and Air Force as the only three NCAA-sanctioned teams west of the Mississippi.

For Utah coach Brian Holman, who is making final preparations for the jump, it is business as usual. He is excited about the Utes being the first NCAA-sanctioned lacrosse team in the Pac-12. The move from club sport to sanctioned sport presents a new opportunity to build the program and rally community support.

The Utes' 2018-2019 schedule will be released this fall.

"Even though a little kid may not have heard of Utah, he might have heard of Duke or North Carolina or Maryland because all these teams are playing here," Holman said. "I think once the community sees the highest level of our sport, I think they'll be blown away."

Holman said the Utes will be competing independently during the upcoming season, but he hopes to soon join or create a conference. The Utes will compete at the McCarthey Family Track and Field Complex during the upcoming season, but they will make the move to a new complex built for men's lacrosse and women's soccer. This complex will be located below the current track field and the Utah ski team building.

The jump to Division I as the Utes' 20th NCAA-sanctioned team was made possible through the generous $15.6 million donation from an anonymous donor, as well as support from the university's athletic department. The team will be awarding eight scholarships to players for the 2018-2019 season, but it plans to reach the maximum of 12.6 scholarships.

With the jump, Holman has experienced a buzz in recruitment from potential prospects in the West, but he plans to look for talent from the entire nation during his recruitment process and the team's unique tryout process this fall. Holman anticipates the 2018-2019 roster to be a mix of both returning players and new talent.

"I think anytime anything is new, it spurs interest, especially with us being the furthest west," Holman said. "It's been a buzz, but the reality is that we have really high expectations. … The reality is we're gonna recruit the highest level of talent that we think is in the country. Whether they are from California or Baltimore, I don't care."

The Utes nearly went undefeated last season during their final club campaign, their lone loss coming against BYU in the MCLA tournament quarterfinals.

Holman, a previous assistant coach at North Carolina who helped lead the Tar Heels to a national championship, has transformed the Utes' lacrosse program during his time in Salt Lake City.