Thanks to increased revenues from television contracts and fund-raising, Duke will enhance its women’s sports programs, the school announced Monday.
Starting in 2018, Duke will field a softball team, athletic director Kevin White said in a statement. Additionally, the school will add scholarships for the following women’s teams: fencing, rowing, swimming and diving and track and field. All four sports will now have the maximum number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA.
"Duke University is fully committed to providing the most complete educational and athletic opportunities for women," White said in the statement. "Adding both softball and new scholarships will enhance and enrich the collective experiences for female student-athletes. Specifically, softball will be a great addition to our varsity programs because it is played at the highest level in the Atlantic Coast Conference."
Eleven ACC schools currently field softball teams: Duke, Miami, Wake Forest and Clemson are the exceptions (the net number of teams won’t change when Maryland departs next year, as Louisville will bring a team). Duke is expected to build a softball facility, according to the release. When asked, Duke sports information director Art Chase pointed to increasing income from television contracts and fund-raising as the monetary source for the sports expansions. Signed last April, the ACC’s TV deal with ESPN is expected to pay each school around $20 million.
Once softball begins play, Duke will have 27 varsity sports teams: 14 for women and 13 for men.