Following an internal review of Southern Illinois University Athletics last year — during which it was found that the program violates Title IX by offering fewer opportunities to women athletes than to men — the SIU Board of Trustees submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Nov. 10 outlining the school’s commitment to creating a women’s soccer team.

The agreement, which was obtained by the Daily Egyptian and can be read in full on their website, states that the “university acknowledges as part of the agreement that there are a sufficient number of female students and admitted students at the university with the interest and ability to support the addition of an intercollegiate women’s soccer team.”

In a press release Tuesday, athletic director Tommy Bell said, “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. 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 agreement was signed into effect Jan. 5 by SIU chancellor Carlo Montemagno. The women’s team is scheduled to begin practicing and competing as a club sport during the 2018-2019 academic year, with the expectation that it will take its place in Division 1 competition in 2020.

According to the Daily Egyptian, the estimated annual operating cost for the team is between $650,000 and $700,000, with an additional one-time expenditure of $100,000 for facility upgrades and equipment purchases. The new program will also require the university to hire a head coach, an assistant coach, and support personnel.

The internal review of SIU Athletics was instigated by former tennis coach Judy Auld and former student-athlete Molly Beckmann, who filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights on March 29, after the men’s and women’s tennis teams were eliminated in January 2017.

Auld told the Daily Egyptian, “Once we saw that they were not in compliance with Title IX, we had to file the complaint and Molly Card Beckmann that played in the early ‘90s was also on the complaint. In dropping the sports we were going to be more out of compliance and somewhere it has to stop; that’s the purpose of Title IX.”

Auld has expressed concerns about the costs of implementing the new program, saying, “I don’t know how they’re going to handle this to where it can be a good competitive Division 1 program.”

Courtney Cameron is Editorial Assistant of Athletic Business.