CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - Women's soccer will be added to Southern Illinois University's athletics line up beginning with the 2019 season.
After making reductions in men's swimming and diving and eliminating men and women's tennis, the University's enrollment in sports was 53.5 percent male and 46.5 percent female. School leaders anticipate that adding women's soccer in 2019-20 will make the ratio 52.2 percent male and 47.8 percent female.
The University has already started the search for a head coach to lead the program.
The addition of the soccer teams means an additional 8.4 scholarships.
The first season, the Salukis will compete as an independent. The Dawgs will join the Missouri Valley Conference as the league's ninth member in 2020.
"Interest in soccer is at an all-time high, and our University had the foresight to build a dual-purpose facility for the eventual arrival of soccer on our campus," said Saluki Director of Athletics Tommy Bell. "The addition of soccer at SIU is a natural fit for our region and is consistent with our University's goal of creating a vibrant student experience."
The women's soccer team will play its home games at Saluki Stadium. They will practice at the Lew Hartzog Track and Field complex where a locker room is already in place for the team.
According to a release from the University, a roster of 25 participants will be fielded for the inaugural season then the team will expand to 30 participants when the program joins the MVC. Members of the current club team will be invited to try out for the team.
The reductions that were announced in Jan. 2017 reportedly saved Saluki Athletics about $700,000 a year. The initial annual operating budget for women's soccer will be less than $400,000, according to the school.
Facility enhancements like goals, safety netting and additional locker room equipment are expected to cost around $100,000 which will be a one time expense.