Last one in my 3 part series...So now that we’ve analyzed new Division 1 lacrosse programs and former Division 1 lacrosse programs, let’s throw the doors open to wild speculation about the next school to follow Michigan's lead and add a Division 1 lacrosse program. As mentioned in previous posts, there are myriad factors preventing universities from officially adding the sport, the two most important being money and Title IX. It costs a lot to field a men’s lacrosse team and these universities have to spend the same amount on women’s athletic programs as they do on men’s - a tough bar to squeeze under when most schools have a big fat hairy football program taking up space.
I believe the ideal candidates for lacrosse expansion are schools fitting one of two profiles: the small school (Marquette) and the big school (Michigan).
- FCS level football, or better yet no football
- Private school located in the northeast, southeast or midwest
- Money to spend/wealthy alums
- Reasonably strong academics
- Respectable athletic pedigree
- Proximity to recruiting hotbeds and/or other varsity programs
- A warm/mild spring climate (the least important but my favorite)
-Profitable BCS football school with $ coming out of its ears
-In a state where the sport is growing. Powerful club program preferred
-Ready-made athletic facilities to easily accommodate a new team
-Its own university or conference television network a major plus
-Already having a women’s program may also help.
So, a school like, say, the University of Richmond would be the perfect candidate to add lacrosse. Well, hey look at that - they played their first season this year, nearly beat UVA and even made the NCAA tournament! But, schools like American and GW fit this profile perfectly- good schools smack dab in the middle of lacrosse country that already have tons of east coast kids. Plus, they don’t even have football. Additionally, dozens of teams are within a few hours drive.
Let’s look at a few others (there's no indication that any of these teams are considering it, but its just an analysis of certain factors):
For some reason I keep thinking Davidson is the perfect school for a new lacrosse program. Dubbed the “Princeton of the South”, the school’s academics are excellent, so coaches could make an impressive pitch to northern recruits. Its a basketball school with a solid athletic reputation and only 63 FCS football scholarships. Located north of Charlotte, Davidson is just a few hours drive to Duke, UNC, UVA, Richmond, VMI, Mercer and Furman so the Wildcats wouldn’t have to travel far to find opponents . Plus, northern squads wouldn’t mind scheduling an opponent in a warmer climate in the spring time. There are probably a bunch of other Davidson/Furman/Mercer-type schools down South that I am not aware of that may also fit this profile.
Seton Hall Prep has a solid lacrosse program, so its a wonder why the mother school never fielded a team. It’s a hoops and baseball school, but the Pirates don’t have football so adding lacrosse could be a good way of upping its athletic profile. They could recruit in their own backyard as well. Monmouth added a team this year and I think the Hall would be able to field a stronger team and eventually compete with the likes of Rutgers. Plus the added incentive of Big East membership. Not sure how much athletic money the Hall has, though.
Xavier always strikes me as a possible candidate. Its a decent, football-less school in a growing area. Its a hoops school and has respectable athletics. Plus, like Seton Hall, the school’s prep academy has an excellent program. I would love to see the Musketeers add to the western expansion of the sport. Plus, they could join Marquette, St Johns, Providence, and G’town in the Big East. Regional opponents include Ohio, Bellarmine, ND, Michigan, Detroit.
James Madison, George Mason, VCU, Old Dominion, William & Mary
Virginia public schools with FCS football could make a good pitch to recruits - play a sport while getting a solid education for an incredibly cheap price (W&M ranks right behind U of M in national public college rankings). Opponents for these schools lie to the north,south, east and west so they won’t struggle to fill out a schedule. Fielding a team could also be a way to get applications and even some out-of-state tuition.
Columbia’s athletic program is regarded as the Ivy League’s worst. The Lions are never good at anything so its unlikely they would add a new sport, just to suck at it. But, it does have a few things going for it: money, prestige and location. Plus, its the only Ivy without lacrosse. Urban campus could make facilities/space difficult however.
So there’s been lots of talk on the board about the Longhorns, fueled primarily by the fact UT put a ton of money into the lacrosse program’s facilities just a few years ago. Texas’s athletic program, aided by the Longhorn Network, has a higher GDP than a handful of small Asian countries. Plus, their new AD seems interested in trying new (even sometimes stupid) things. Word on the street is that if they’re gonna do it, theyre gonna do it Texas-style: big. The only drawback is geography. None of their regional rivals play lacrosse and Austin is far from the sport’s isolated pockets in the east and midwest. But, damn, Texas would be a huge domino to fall in the game’s manifest destiny.
Florida State/Georgia Tech
So, as a high school recruit over a decade ago I constantly heard coaches say Florida State and Georgia Tech were always on the verge of “going D-1”. Well that was 14 years ago now and the same rumors still persist. I dont know where they come from, but they were never true. And its always the same two - FSU and G-Tech. Maybe one day they will. They have the resources - they’re big ACC state schools with plenty of BCS football money.
While far from the sport’s traditional home, the state of Colorado has lacrosse fever these days. The sport is incredibly popular there and high schools are pumping out D-1 caliber talent. While a lot of the rumors these days are about the ACC and Texas, I think the next team will come from the Centennial State. The incredibly athletic Rams used to torment Michigan back in the club days. The Buffs were always tough and are still a top club team. Their cross-state rivalry is intense and always brings out tons of fans (holy shit they played at Mile High Stadium this year!). I would love for these guys to make the jump and the state will have its own lacrosse Beanpot: Denver, Air Force, Colorado and Colorado State. Keep in mind, CU is in the PAC-12 now so that could spur some of their conference foes to at least think about it...
Pac 12 Schools:
So, speaking of the Pac-12. A lot of the talk on the board was that a coalition of west coast schools may decide to go through with it. Supposedly, PAC-12 schools have been contemplating a lacrosse league. I think the biggest problem here is that the UC system has been in such horrible financial disarray the past several years. New sports are not on the agenda when tuition is skyrocketing. That precludes Cal and UCLA for now. A fledgling league of Arizona, Arizona St., Stanford, USC and Colorado would be great for the sport though.
NW could be the next B1G team into the mix. A prestigious school with nationwide pull, NW shouldn’t have trouble recruiting and building a program. The Wildcats are sort of the effete nerds of the B1G managing to make a surprise Rose Bowl every decade or so but also never ever making the NCAA tournament, so their athletic program isn’t amazing. It would be interesting to see if they could pull off what Princeton did in the 90s and corner the market on a niche sport. NW added a women’s team a few years ago and they have transformed into a powerhouse. I wonder if the men could follow suit. The only problem is that if they had the money and intent to go D-1, I think they probably would have done it by now.
So that concludes my three part series on the growth of the sport (which, as you can tell, I’m obsessed with). But, I think its also an interesting lens with which to examine athletic department budgets and money in collegiate sports as a whole.
Enjoy the Final 4 this weekend. Go Terps! Go Pioneers!