The Michigan men’s lacrosse team is joining forces with the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), the Athletic Department announced Thursday. The Wolverines will be the eighth member of the conference.

According to the press release, Michigan “will be an affiliate member during the 2012 season and will become a full-fledged member in their second season (2013) in the ECAC.”

“We’re very excited about joining the ECAC,” Michigan coach John Paul said in the statement. “We wanted to find a way to incorporate the best rivalry in college sports into our conference schedule, so the ECAC was in our sights from day one because Ohio State was already a member. Top to bottom, the ECAC provides an opportunity to play an outstanding conference schedule against great programs. We feel like it’s a perfect fit.”

The Wolverines become the first team to join the ECAC since four teams — Air Force, Bellarmine, Denver and Ohio State — all joined prior to the 2010 season.

The other conference members include Fairfield, Hobart and Loyola (Md.).

“Michigan will be an exceptional addition to the ECAC Lacrosse League. After having been one of the strongest club teams in the country,” ECAC Commissioner Rudy Keeling said in the press release. “Michigan is now committed to making its varsity men’s lacrosse team one of the best in the nation. The ECAC is excited to welcome the institution as our newest member.”

The 2012 schedule has not yet been completed, but the fledgling Michigan varsity program will play a partial league schedule this first year, then a full slate of conference games in the program’s second season.

The Michigan men’s lacrosse program, which ascended to varsity status from the club ranks in mid-May, made its intentions clear from the outset. At the introductory press conference for the newly-named varsity sport, Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon indicated that the Wolverines had submitted their application to join the ECAC.

“The ECAC lacrosse conference is competitive and balanced and we are thrilled to be accepted for membership,” Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon said in the statement. “We plan to schedule as many of the league schools as possible for the upcoming season while understanding the challenges of scheduling competitions this late in the cycle.”

As a club team, Michigan saw its three-year reign as national champions end with a 7-6 defeat to Arizona State in the semi-finals of the MCLA National Tournament in May. With the ascension to varsity status, the Wolverines became the first FBS program to add men’s lacrosse since Notre Dame in 1981.

Michigan’s women’s lacrosse program will make the jump to the varsity level for the 2012-13 season.

The Wolverines, under the direction of Michigan coach John Paul, aren’t expected to be national contenders immediately, but with the first true recruiting class coming in this fall, Michigan’s attack on the lacrosse scene begins with conference play.

“Obviously, we’re not a top Division I program right now,” Paul said on May 25. “But there are a couple things we’ve instilled in this program, in our culture, that will help us. Our guys know how to work, and they know how to deal with the adversity which they’ll probably deal with a bit next year.

“We’re confident these guys can lay the foundation, culturally, of what we need to be.”

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