Exciting news came out of Charlottesville on Friday afternoon as Athletics Director Craig Littlepage announced that men’s and women’s squash would be added as the 26th and 27th varsity sports programs at Virginia.
“We are thankful for the generous gift of a donor to elevate squash to varsity status at the University,” said UVA president Teresa Sullivan in a statement. “Squash is a challenging sport that requires a great deal of physical fitness and it’s a lifelong competitive pursuit for many, particularly in our area. The high usage rate of the courts at the McArthur Squash Center is just one sign of the popularity of the sport in our community. We are thrilled to support squash at the highest possible level and look forward to attracting even more terrific varsity student-athletes to Grounds.”
Virginia Squash has existed as a club sport for about twenty years, but five years ago, the program earned a big boost when the Boar’s Head Sports Club received a $12.4 million gift to build out a 33,000 square foot squash facility, the McArthur Squash Center.
“We are committed to providing intercollegiate athletics opportunities for UVA students where it makes sense and are excited to add men’s and women’s squash as varsity sport programs,” Littlepage said in the release. “The athletics department is grateful for the support of a generous donor to the University and we appreciate the collaboration of a number of partners across the University to make this possible.”
Squash is not an NCAA sport. Instead it’s governed by the Collegiate Squash Association, and as of today, Virginia is the only Power 5 school with a men’s varsity team, and joins Stanford as the only ones with a women’s team. Without any other competition in the conference, we’re going to go ahead and dub Virginia next year’s ACC champions. (Just kidding -- it’s not an ACC sport either and therefore
The Virginia women finished last season ranked No. 13, while the men were ranked No. 19. The promotion to varsity status doesn’t affect who is on Virginia’s schedule — instead, it affects a program’s funding. As a club sport, the squash teams requested funding from Student Council, just as any other CIO would. Now, they’re funded through the Virginia Athletics Foundation — private money not raised through tuition or state dollars.
The teams will continue to be led by head coach Mark Allen, who has been the head coach for both programs and the director of squash at Boar’s Head from 2013-2017. The assistant coach is Grant White, who has also been coaching the program since 2011.
Under Allen and White’s leadership, both programs were the No. 1 ranked club teams nationally for the 2015-16 and the 2016-17 seasons.
Currently, there are 15 men and 15 women on the team rosters. Under NCAA rules governing varsity sports, Virginia will be permitted to fund a maximum of 12 scholarships for men and 12 scholarships for women, although we don’t know at this time how many scholarships are actually funded.
Squash is a winter sport with its first match scheduled for November 4, 2017 against Dickinson. The season goes until late February and early March, with the women’s team championships on February 16, 2018 and the men’s team championships on February 23, 2018. Individual championships will start March 2, 2018.
Welcome to the Virginia Cavaliers family, Hoos Squash!