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Liberty University eyes equestrian program

June 13, 2008 : Tara Maxwell

By 2010 Liberty University students will have a new athletics program option — one with four legs.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. announced Thursday that a women’s equestrian team is in the works.

“An old horse farm on Liberty Mountain will be used to board the horses,” Falwell said. “Students who are not members of the team will have the opportunity to board their own horses at LU while attending college and enjoy LU’s 40-plus miles of trails on Liberty Mountain.”

LU is also adding women’s lacrosse and women’s swimming to its roster over the next three years, LU Director of Athletics Jeff Barber said last month. The women’s lacrosse program is slated to begin NCAA competition during the 2009-10 season, and the women’s swimming program will follow a similar timeline.

LU has been working with the U.S. Department of Education for almost 10 years to settle a complaint filed by a women’s advocacy group in the 1990s, Falwell said. The group claimed that LU did not meet its obligations to women athletes under Title IX.

“After an investigation, the DOE concluded that LU was over-funding its women’s sports to the detriment of the men. LU may have gone too far in correcting that deficiency because later it was determined that LU needed to increase the number of women athletes competing in intercollegiate sports,” Falwell said.

Since 1988, Liberty has expanded its athletics offerings six times, with five of the six sport additions being women’s programs. Liberty added women’s soccer in 1988 and women’s tennis in 2001, while reinstating its softball program in 1994.

“In January 2007 Jeff Barber began to work toward compliance with Title IX,” Falwell said. “That effort included a survey of all female students to determine if there was sufficient interest among them to create any new sports. The survey determined that there was strong interest among LU’s women for three different sports: lacrosse, swimming and equestrian.”

With the addition of women’s lacrosse, women’s swimming and the equestrian program, Liberty will offer 21 athletics opportunities for the student body.