Duke will add softball as a new varsity sport, Vice President and Director of Athletics Kevin White announced Monday. Softball will becomes Duke's 27th varsity team and is anticipated to make its debut in the spring of 2018.

“Duke University is fully committed to providing the most complete educational and athletic opportunities for women,” White said in a press release. “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.”

The debate of adding a softball team has been a hotly-contested one in recent years, with athletic department administrators grappling over whether there would be enough student interest to warrant the addition of a program.

When the Blue Devils debut on the softball diamond, they will be the 12th ACC school to boast a softball program. Eleven current members compete in softball, including Maryland, which will depart the conference at the conclusion of the academic year, and Louisville, which will subsequently join the ACC effective July 1.

Duke also announced plans to increase the number of available scholarships for women's fencing, rowing, swimming and diving and track and field to provide each program with the maximum quantity allowed by the NCAA. The Blue Devils' swimming and diving teams are only partially funded, which make it more difficult to compete with fully-funded ACC powerhouses like Virginia.

With the addition of a softball program, Duke will have 13 men's athletic teams and 14 women's teams.