Michigan announced the formation of men's and women's varsity lacrosse programs this morning, A few interesting tidbits from the press conference:
Athletic Director David Brandon said his "team" has identified lacrosse as the fastest-growing sport in America, and in Michigan. HS programs in the state have gone from 50 to 180 in the past 10 years. "It's also a great television sport," which likely means some TV down the road.
"On the men's side, we've applied for admission to the ECAC." [ed: for a rundown on Michigan's future conference opponents check out MaizeAndBlueWahoo's excellent diary.] The application has been received, and Brandon is confident the Wolverines' bid will be accepted, saying "we have high expectations that process will happen quickly, and we are very encouraged in terms of initial feedback we have received."
On the women's side, they will apply for admission to the ALC. Florida, Hopkins, Northwestern, Penn State, Ohio State, and Vanderbilt are the current members of that league. The Athletic Department and Michigan's coach are going to work together to set up the non-conference portion of the schedule.
David Brandon stated that a national search will begin immediately for a women's coach, but as far as men's goes "I have a primary candidate in mind for that position." That candidate is longtime club coach John Paul. As soon as Michigan has the position publicly listed for a week (in accordance with the law), JP will be introduced as men's coach. For women's coaching candidates, Brandon said he wanted somebody with a track record of building a program from the bottom up.
JP stated that 25 members from this season's club lacrosse roster will return to the team for next year's inaugural varsity year, including 4-time MCLA All-American Trevor Yealy, who will be a 5th-year senior. Filling out the first varsity roster for Michigan are 10 incoming recruits and several potential transfers.
Brandon gave some love to the "Project Lacrosse Founder's Club," which was formed over the past few months. They have worked hard to ensure the necessary fundraising could be completed. Over 70 people contributed monetarily, including several "major gifts."
"We are in the process of putting facility plans together. And what we're trying to do at Michigan Athletics, as opposed to creating one-off plans, we've really spent a lot of time of late in a master planning mode." Lacrosse has been included in the AD's "master planning process." It's still a work in progress, and Schembechler's practice fields, the Big House, the UM Soccer Stadium, and other facilities will be used in the meantime. Building their own home is in the long-term plans, though Brandon said that's at least 3 years off.
Lacrosse is gaining momentum as a sport, and Brandon is hopeful that Michigan's programs can be a revenue-generating opportunity down the road - though that has nothing to do with why they're adding the sport. "I've seen around the country, crowds that show up in double-digit thousands for their competitions." Operating costs for both programs combined will be $3 million. That will be a big investment, but donor support is expected to be a major help.
Brandon is most excited that 84 more athletes at the University of Michigan will have varsity athletics opportunities, and 25 new scholarships will be available for student-athletes. "What a great opportunity. At a time when a lot of Athletic Departments are shrinking and contemplating cutting sports, for us to be here adding two major sports like the ones we're adding today is something we're blessed to be able to do."
There are no plans to add any other sports in the near future. Taking on two more is a big deal, and the Athletic Department will take some time to "digest" that before making any other moves.
Brandon expects the men's and women's teams to both be competitive right away. "The only thing I'll tell you is: We're Michigan. We're not gonna add these sports, and we're not gonna make the financial commitment and put the time and energy that we have and will put into these if we're not prepared to go out and compete for championships." He doesn't want arbitrary timelines, but they'll evaluate the programs going forward. Competitive reasons explain why men are going in 2012, while women will start playing games in 2013.
"The idea of featuring the sport in conjunction with the spring [football] game - because the seasons overlap from a timing perspective - I know Ohio State has done that with great success." That's something Michigan will consider going forward. Having the largest stadium available to the program will be a great opportunity. If Michigan is fortunate enough to host a first-round NCAA Tournament game down the road, they'd submit a bid for Michigan Stadium to host.
There are a lot of rivalries available to Michigan - Ohio State, Notre Dame, and others. Lacrosse started as an Eastern regional sport, but it's spreading to the West. Colleges as far as California are considering adding the sport. "We think this is going to take us some really interesting places, and they're not all in the East." Brandon believes that forward-thinking Big Ten ADs will look at lacrosse as a new varsity sport in the future.
I'll have some more specific stuff (i.e. "stuff that's completely uninteresting to people who don't already care about lacrosse") up on GreatLaxState this afternoon. And, to close it out, the final video blog in Michigan's MCLA history, courtesy of graduating senior Pat Stansik:
Very cool thanks for this. I can't believe how big lacrosse has gotten.
My cousin got a full ride scholarship to Colorado to play lacrosse about ten years ago and I was like....play what? It really is a fun sport to watch though and my interest is especially piqued with Michigan adding it.
-I've always told people who said "good luck" that it's not luck, it's skill. Then I found out Charles Woodson said the same thing once and I felt cooler.
My comment in the sidebar thread (which I originally wanted to post in the first version of this front page thread) was that we have one of the top high school LAX programs in the country at Birmingham Brother Rice. Perhaps some of the top players from there (and other top state hs programs) who traditionally headed east for college will now stay home and play for Michigan.
"the Spirit of Michigan...is based on a deathless loyalty to Michigan and all her ways....and a conviction that nowhere is there a better university, in any way, than this Michigan of ours" - Fielding Yost
My senior year our team travelled from Chicago out to Michigan to play Brother Rice and DCD (or Catholic Central, can't remember). Brother Rice was the only team that beat us all year, we beat the other Detroit Area team and swept our Illinois schedule. I have to say it's very cool that Lacrosse is picking up momentum and congrats to all the future lettermen/women out there
"Over? Did you say, over? Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
First, when Brandon said "double-digit thousands," did he mean "tens of thousands?" What a weird turn of phrase.
Second, I get kind of confused when I read things like "[t]here are a lot of rivalries available to Michigan." There was a lot of this kind of talk during the conference shake up, that ADs and conferences were "creating" rivalries. When did rivalries start being "created?" When did every sport for every school all the sudden become entitled to have X-number of rivalry games? Aren't rivalries supposed to be born out of tense/nasty/competitive history between two programs? (Sorry for the rant, but this manufacturing of "rivalries" bugs me.)
Also, thanks Tim for all the LAX info! God knows I'd be totally clueless without your posts.
PS. Nice job on WTKA this morning. I was listening online with my morning coffee.
I don't intend to say that new, artificial rivalries will be formed. The point is that Ohio State and Notre Dame have D-1 programs that Michigan will probably play every year - those are long-established rivals, just porting it over to a new sport. Penn State is also a rival (though certainly not to the level of OSU or Notre Dame, at least from the Michigan end).
Sorry, I didn't mean to insinuate that you were talking up some manufactured rivalry (clearly, everything OSU and ND is a naturally opposing force against UM). It just reminded me of all the conference re-alignment, divisional breakdown talk.
I agree that rivalries can't be manufactured. However, there are schools that have rivalries in a certain sport that spill over into other sports, and some schools that will always be rivals of each other's no matter the sport.
So although M is not lacrosse rivals with ND, OSU and PSU because they're never played those teams in real competition, there's little doubt in anyone's mind that the ND and PSU games will mean a little more than the other OOC games and that OSU will be a major in-conference game every year. It's not like they were talking about "starting" rivalries with Syracuse or Princeton or something, these are teams M plays in most every other sport on a regular basis, and are fairly regional (especially ND and OSU).
I get what you're saying, but it's not a major stretch to think these games will be rivalry games.
very excited about this. I've been a part time Lax fan for awhile now and with Michigan being added that will definitely make me a fan even moreso. Hope to get to some games before I'm forced to leave the AA area.
successfully achieved 1 year self-imposed posting ban 4/10/13
Welcome to the ECAC. I'm a Fairfield grad and even though I've never been much of a lax fan I follow the team because it is far and away our most successful sport. Which is kind of like being the most successful cast member on the Jersey Shore but whatever.
I enjoyed MaizeandBlueWahoo's diary and was disappointed to hear Loyola and Fairfield are considering leaving the conference to join all their other sports in the MAAC. It would be typical for Fairfield (a school that declined membership to the orginal Big East) to run and hide instead of trying to compete with the bigger schools in the ECAC.
I'm not sure it is so much those schools running to hide, but more of a restructuring of sorts in multiple conferences. It definitely makes more sense for those schools to compete in the MAAC if that's where the rest of their sports find their home. I also wouldn't be surprised to see a rebirth of the Great West Lacrosse League sometime down the road.
AHHHHH I just want to publish all my Great Lax State content now, so I can talk about it!
It might make logistical sense to have every sport in the MAAC but it seems clear to me that it would also mean a step down in competition for the lax program. I feel like with our access to recruiting in Long Island and Fairfield County, CT we have an inherent advantage over schools in other regions that would offset our small size and allow us to be competitive. If something is worth doing then it's worth doing well and I want to see if we can hang. You don't get opportunities to play the likes of Denver, Michigan and Ohio State in the MAAC.
On the other hand, if Loyola and Fairfield went to the MAAC they'd give the MAAC instant credibility and really turn that league into one worth watching. Siena's got a decent team and Marist is starting to come on a little bit.
observer of LAX, I used to think it was just players with sticks playing some sort of field hockey. Not as challenging or grueling as football, basketball, etc. Then, my son got interested. Now that I've seen games, seen close up how physically taxing the sport is, I have more respect for it. The stamina and athleticism required is substantial. The injuries are many. Those aluminum sticks become weapons of sorts, and I've seen many nasty bruises and lacerations on arms, torsos, legs, etc. LAX is no joke, and it's fun to watch. The players don't have nearly the protection as do hockey players, and it's a nice warm weather sport. (fwiw) Those UM uni's will look great, I'm glad it's coming to MIchigan
I have always thought of Lacrosse as being a "rich kid" sport. Growing up I had never seen it played before and there were really no opportunities to do that around me that I knew of. It does look like a pretty fun sport even if I don't understand most of the rules. It seems like Michigan is well prepared to step up to D1 and play with the big boys.
"They will meet a dastardly fate here for that! There isn't a Michigan Man who wouldn't like go out and scalp those Buckeyes right now."
Well, Lacrosse and Hockey can both be seen pseudo "rich, predominantly white" sports. I say that as a white hockey and lacrosse player (I really don't mean to offend.)
With hockey the reasons are very obvious: Ice time and to a lesser extent equipment. Ice slots cost between $100-300 an hour depending on where you are and how many rinks there are, so team fees for a year are in the thousands. Equipment is expensive, probably $300-400 to outfit a normal child with everything they need. And then they grow out of it. Also, insurance costs can be an issue. The reason my highschool fielded "Club-Varsity" hockey teams was because they didn't want to pay for ice and insurance. But the insurance side can't be worse than football....
With Lacrosse it's mostly equipment start up costs, and again its around $400. Stick, gloves, elbow pads, shoulder pads and helmet and cleats. In my experience most lacrosse players (on the high school level) were out-of-season hockey and football players. Another cost is the goal, it's not very common (6'x6') so getting one is a few hundred as well.
Both of these sports are very hard to just "pick up and play" when compared to other major american sports (without even considering the need for a goalie). For both you need sticks, a ball/puck and goals of some kind. For say, basketball all you need is a ball and a hoop (hoops are more prevalent than goals). Football all you need is a ball and markers (that endzone is between those trees, this one is between the sweatshirts), baseball a stick and a ball and "bases" (chairs, sweats, whatever). Soccer is the same, which is why it's the worlds most popular sport. All you need is a ball and to make up goals.
I think the fact that it's harder to just "play" is why it's seen as a "rich kid" sport
"Over? Did you say, over? Nothing is over until we decide it is!"
I don't think "rich kid" sport is as appropriate a term as "not-poor kid" sport. Growing up in Michigan, I knew a lot of kids who played on travel hockey teams, and most of their parents weren't rich, they just weren't poor. Same thing with soccer travel teams, minus the equipment. My brother played on a travel soccer team, and my parents spent many weekends in hotels in other cities so he could play in them. Lacrosse is similar to both. You don't have to be wealthy, but you need to be able to budget a couple thousand a year to your kid's sport.
Hey Tim, great job. regarding the 10 incoming recruits. were they recruited as D1 players or Varsity Club players? in other words, how long ago did the coaches know the move up to D1 was a done deal? were they able to use that as ammo on the recruiting trail or did these 10 know just as much as we did?
I'm not Tim, and I'm not basing this on first hand knowledge, but I'm quite sure they were told something along the lines of "unofficially we will officially be a club progrm in a matter of months. Unoffically, here's about what you can expect in terms of a scholarship, etc."
EDIT: After reading Tim's post at GLS, JP says he never actually recruited kids with promises of D1, but that a lot of kids he had been recruiting committed knowing that D1 would happen soon, maybe before they even played their first game. I'm also sure a lot of these recruits had coaches or other people close to them informing them about the goings-on, people who may have known more about those goings-on than us. Even if they knew as much as us, they knew this was a done deal a while ago.
it'll be interesting to watch the parallels between Michigan lax and PSU hockey as they are both big names showing up in historically very regional sports for the first time. Both are seen as the first tile in a possible domino effect, both have had great success at the club level, and both are expected to compete nationally down the road. It'll be great to see if both of these new, big-name programs will be able to crack the historical trends
Rudy watches inspirational movies about Shawn Hunwick
Michigan lacrosse is going to be good a looooooot faster than Penn State Hockey. For one, they have less of a leap between levels. Penn State's current hockey league is closer to the NCLL (less serious lacrosse league) than the MCLA (Michigan's club league, the top one in the country by a country mile). Penn State's club team also didn't have nearly the organizational power that Michigan's lacrosse program did.
For that matter, I don't claim to know a whole lot about PSU's club hockey roster, but I doubt they have a whole lot of guys who were recruited by D-1 schools (partially because hockey recruiting, what with junior leagues, early NHL draft, etc., is a much different and better-scouted animal). Michigan has 3 or 4 players on their roster now who could play at most schools outside of the traditional powers.
If you check Chris Heisenberg's spreadsheet, you'll find Penn State's hockey commits at the very bottom of the list. They have a few guys from scattered CJHL leagues and then several players coming from the EJHL which is an east coast tier III team.
I know that EJHL guys populate several ACHA teams. For instance, Delaware's team is stocked with guys out of the EJHL so I'm not sure the quality of Penn State's recruiting is there yet. However, college hockey recruiting is such a little known science that I could be entirely wrong.
I do think that we'll have a lot more immediate success, I'm still just curious to see if the name brand can overtake the traditional names like Penn State beating BU for recruits or Michigan beating out Johns Hopkins
Rudy watches inspirational movies about Shawn Hunwick
I can attest that JP has repeatedly said he has never recruited using the promise of Michigan going D1. Really, until Dave Brandon showed up and quickly gave his full support to the effort, varsity lacrosse at Michigan was still just a dream.
What many people don't realize is that Michigan as a varsity club team has been pulling kids for some time that could have played at lower tier D1 teams and mid to upper D3 teams. It's not hard to believe high school players who just barely missed the cut on top varsity squads might choose a school like Michigan over toiling away at a D3 lacrosse school. It's an easy choice most of the time if you're looking for academics, a big-time school, and let's face it, the gear and facilities at Michigan rival some you would find at very good D1 schools.
Facilities are on par with some pretty good teams, but I would hazard a guess that the gear is almost second-to-none. Though the Wolverines haven't had that much flashy stuff in the past few years, Dave Morrow (founder of Warrior Lacrosse) has become a big supporter of the program over the past few years.
Those are just for practice. They wear the wings in games. I think Warrior/Brine gave them those as kind of a special mid-season present this year. More of a marketing move by Warrior probably than anything else. Love the old logo though.
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