ASU's historic move to the Big 12 garnered attention about Sun Devil football and basketball, yet little was known about the future of several small sports before their final seasons playing in the Pac-12.
After much uncertainty, the ASU women’s lacrosse and beach volleyball teams can rest easy knowing they will be playing in the Big 12 next season. The Big 12 announced that the two sports will be added to its rotation in 2024-25, according to a press release Thursday.
"Beach volleyball and women's lacrosse are both experiencing growth and popularity on a national level," Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark said in the release. "The additions will allow incoming and current members to compete for national championships under the Big 12 umbrella while expanding the league's footprint across new sports."
Both sports are relatively new compared to some of ASU’s more tenured teams. The University first added beach volleyball in 2014, two years before the Pac-12 hosted its first championship. The Sand Devils have never won a Pac-12 title, as USC or UCLA has won each year, and hold a record of 117-116 during their short existence.
Beach volleyball is a growing sport that was added by major colleges around the country in the last decade. The NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship was first held in 2016, making it the first new championship for women's sports since the more tame bowling championship was created in 2004. Yet ASU has never qualified for the championship as UA is the only program in Arizona to ever make it.
The ASU women's lacrosse team was founded a year after the beach volleyball team just across the complex. The goggle-wearing Sun Devils are yet to break out in conference play, as they've never won a Pac-12 regular season title or conference tournament. Granted, ASU head coach Taryn VanThof has only one season under her belt and is still trying to turn the program in the right direction.
Both programs will look for new beginnings in a conference that has never had either sport. Initially, Colorado and Cincinnati will join the women's lacrosse team in the Big 12, guaranteeing the Sun Devils a top-three finish in their first season.
VanThof is excited for a fresh start in the tiny conference for her growing program.
"Sun Devil lacrosse is ecstatic to be able to represent the Big 12 with the addition of lacrosse," VanThof said. "As one of the fastest-growing sports, the addition of Big 12 lacrosse is an unbelievable opportunity to showcase our sport nationally. I am very excited to compete for Big 12 Championships and NCAA bids starting in 2024-25."
Beach volleyball will have slightly more company as the team is joined by UA, Utah, and TCU. The Wildcats have had a winning record for nine straight seasons, while the Horned Frogs have qualified for the NCAA Championship each of the past three seasons. The Utes are slightly newer to the sandy sport and have never had a winning record.
Many questions still need to be addressed before either sport kicks off. The Big 12 still needs to figure out how to increase participation numbers in both sports so that teams can qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The conference stated that it will address adding more teams and other issues in the future.
Win or lose, the athletics department is optimistic that the two teams will find success in the Big 12. ASU Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator Christina Wombacher said the addition of beach volleyball and lacrosse is an excellent decision for the future of student-athletes.
"I am excited to further amplify Olympic sports and the Big 12 brand," Wombacher said. "We are all looking forward to a great student-athlete experience competing for championships."
Edited by Vinny DeAngelis, Sadie Buggle and Caera Learmonth.