Michigan to Add Varsity Lacrosse

Submitted by Tim on May 24th, 2011 at 4:05 PM


After months (even years) of speculation, the University of Michigan will announce that the Athletic Department will add Men's and Women's Lacrosse as varsity sports. Sources tell mgoblog that tomorrow's noon press conference is to make the official announcement regarding lacrosse.

They are the first newcomers since men's soccer was promoted in 2000. The men will begin competition in the Spring of 2012 (that's next year!), whereas the women will have a year or two to get going. Michigan's strong men's club program (a "virtual varsity") will help that team get off the ground a little more quickly. The timeframe for the men's program comes as something of a surprise, as it gives the coaching staff hardly any time to assemble a varsity roster - or rather, it would be a surprise, if not for an InsideLacrosse report a month or so ago.

According to University of Denver coach Bill Tierney, the Wolverines will join the ECAC, which would mean games against Denver, Loyola-Maryland, Fairfield, Ohio State, Air Force, Hobart, and Bellarmine, assuming no other changes to the composition of the conference (which is not guaranteed). I would hazard a guess that Michigan would also make an effort to schedule traditional rivals like Notre Dame and Penn State in the non-conference portion of their schedule, along with geographic fit Detroit. Other possibilities include past scrimmage opponents Johns Hopkins and Army, along with a few weaker opponents (Mercer/Wagner/VMI) to hopefully pad the win column at least a little bit.

The biggest immediate question is one of venue. The club team currently competes in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse on a smaller-than-regulation field in cramped quarters. With a move to varsity status, that will no longer be sufficient, so either an existing field will need to be made available for lacrosse or a new facility in necessary. The UM Soccer Stadium is little-used in the spring, but I've heard that it's more likely that a new stadium will be built for lacrosse, either at that location or on the Southwest corner of Elbel Field (per previous plans that apparently fell through). Of course Ohio State plays in their football team's stadium, so The Big House is not out of the question, especially as a temporary or occasional venue.

Much more on lacrosse in the coming days (though to not overwhelm mgobloggers who don't care, I'll post most of it over at Great Lax State).



May 24th, 2011 at 4:14 PM ^

...Men's and Women's Lacrosse clubs. The consistent strength of their programs on and off the field is a major factor in this decision and is testament to the hard work of everyone involved over the years.

I'm looking forward to seeing the Men's team play when they come east next season.


May 24th, 2011 at 4:20 PM ^

Congrats to the M Lax club program for making this decision a no brainer. And congrats to all lax players and fans in the state-this wonderful game is sure to take off at the youth and HS level with a major college program in the state (no offense meant to the Titans).
<br>What a great day for Michigan and lacrosse. GO BLUE!!!


May 24th, 2011 at 4:22 PM ^

It's been rumored (but not confirmed) for a few weeks now that they'd be making the immediate jump. My sources all indicate that it's going to be the case.


May 24th, 2011 at 4:54 PM ^

Ohio State lacrosse plays most of its games at Jesse Owens Stadium, where the track team competes. Playing at Ohio Stadium is a one or two times-a-year thing. They usually tie it in with the spring football game.

Regardless, it'll be nice to have another sport in which to play you guys.


May 24th, 2011 at 5:12 PM ^

Wow! I could not be more excited for the new teams. I'm sure there will be a lot of student interest for the games, especially as the weather gets nice in the spring!

I'm very curious about the venue, though. Those of us in the marching band caught wind of potential plans on Elbel, but (as you say) that apparently fell through. With a lacrosse field in the middle of that grass, I feel like some very important flag football real estate would disappear. Maybe it's a good thing they're relocating, then. In any event, congrats on moving up from Oosterbaan!

Go blue? Go blue.


May 24th, 2011 at 7:57 PM ^

Elbel is a Rec Sports field.  While Michigan Lacrosse was a club team that was a possibility.  Now that they will be a varsity team, they will use other space and not take over space for the rec sports.

But thinking of Band, the Princeton team has a great Pep Band.  You guys up for it?


May 24th, 2011 at 5:32 PM ^

This is fantastic news, even if it was teased out last month. I can't wait to see them at Loyola's kick-ass new stadium (and any other visits to the Baltimore area they may make).

As for venue: using the new Soccer stadium is the obvious (and correct choice), at least for now.  The stadium is built, very nice and appropriately sized.  Michigan would be silly to build an entirely new Lacrosse-only stadium, at least before the sport really develops and they need it.  The Elbel Field location is a good one in theory, but the original plan was deeply flawed.  Building an actual NCAA-caliber stadium on that site is likely unteneble. 

The soccer stadium is by far the best choice for now (much better than Michigan Stadium), and even though its location leaves much to be desired, adding a second burgeoning sport to the venue should actually help make the location more palatable to the student body and improve the draw for both sports (as they would grow accustomed to going there for both Soccer and LAX).




May 24th, 2011 at 5:46 PM ^

JP has said the short term plans are to use Michigan Stadium and Oosterbaan, with maybe one game a year in the soccer stadium.  I would think there would be concern about playing lacrosse on the soccer grass field since it would tear it up.  The long term plans seem to be building new lacrosse/track facilities, both indoor and outdoor, in the area where soccer and tennis are.  I guess we'll see.  They definitely need a dedicated facility eventually for recruiting purposes.


May 24th, 2011 at 6:27 PM ^

I doubt the concern with using the soccer field has anything to do with tearing up the grass.  UM will probably have 6-9 home games a year, and lacrosse doesn't tear up the turf anywhere near a sport like rugby or football.  Plus, they'd have the entire summer to regrow the grass before soccer season even if it was completely torn up.


May 24th, 2011 at 10:03 PM ^

lacrosse doesn't tear up the turf anywhere near a sport like rugby or football.

Then you haven't seen any games at UNC or Maryland. How a supposedly powerhouse program can have such poor stadium turf is beyond me. Lacrosse makes an absolute mess of the center of the field and usually tears up the goalie creases something fierce, too. If you don't stay on top of it. This is not to say that a lacrosse/soccer venue can't be done, because if you have good groundskeepers, it happens all the time.


May 24th, 2011 at 10:56 PM ^

You should've seen 'em after a full season.  Good God.  Maryland hosted the ACC tourney last year and it was just embarrassing.  Bare dirt would've been an improvement.  Bounce shots were impossible because the bounces were never true and sometimes they'd just die on the sod.  I watched the UNC-Maryland game in this year's NCAA tournament and everything between the restraining lines back looked like the surface of the moon, complete with midfield crater.

I hate that this is gonna come off braggy, but, UVA has a dedicated lacrosse/soccer stadium as you know, and frankly it always looks beautiful.  Lacrosse does tear up a field, and even Klockner has its bare patches, but they're right under the goalie's feet and that's it.  I don't see why UNC and Md. can't figure it out.


May 25th, 2011 at 1:28 AM ^

Klockner was used for soccer as well.  The condition of the UNC field surprised me when watching the first round game, as the buildings at the facility look really nice.  Seeing how enpty Byrd can be at Md makes me less than crazy about the idea of using the Big House much at all.  Frankly, a big lax crowd is 10,000 - a drop in the bucket in Michigan Stadium.  

Anyway, Hopkins gave up on grass decades ago - it was astroturf 25 years ago, now its field turf.  Of course, at Hopkins it's a lacrosse field that happens to get lent out to soccer and football!  Anyway, best of luck to the Cavs against an exceptionally well-coached Denver team.  


May 25th, 2011 at 9:01 AM ^

Even the Lacrosse championships, which take up NFL venues and can draw 30k have a horrible atmosphere because the venue is just too big for the game.  As a very temporary solution, Lacrosse at Michigan Stadium would be fine--better than not being a D-I program--but they would be much better off at the soccer stadium, even if it requires some turf replacement every year.

I didn't realize that a new track & field complex was a possibility.  If that's for real, then a artificial turf lacrosse venue inside the track would be an ideal solution.  They could really size that stadium perfectly for a sport instead of being forced to play in a cavernous, empty football stadium.  Maryland is a great example of where this goes wrong.

Come to think of it, why not retrofit the existing track & field venue and play the games there?  Parking is already on-site, it's in the middle of other sports venues, and some additional/upgraded bleachers can simply be installed where the old ones are right now.  They wouldn't need more than a capacity of a few thousand. This could be a really good temporary solution if damaging the soccer field is a real and legitimate concern.

As for a dedicated facility, I don't think that Michigan even needs one to compete.  Very few schools have a dedicated lacrosse stadium, including most of the national powers.  A shared facility with soccer makes the most sense, but ultimately Lax will need an artificial turf surface, which real soccer folk are not big fans of. A bigger recruiting tool would be a dedicated team facility for practice and training.  If Lax can get that (via Oosterban upgrades, perhaps?) they should be able to build the program up nicely.


May 25th, 2011 at 9:12 AM ^

I would guess that a dedicated training facility will be just a few years down the road. The Lacrosse boosters' club had plans to make one for the club program, and I wouldn't be surprised if the money is quick in coming for a varsity squad. Location is the big question.


May 24th, 2011 at 6:23 PM ^

I'm really, really liking this, especially because I live in Fairfield, CT.  That means at least an occasional local Michigan game...a rare treat in these parts.  And these are just small venue walk-ins - no tickets etc.  Looks like they only play once a year so they should be here every other year, I assume.  Very nice indeed.


May 24th, 2011 at 8:25 PM ^

I'm in DE so maybe they'll play at UD sometime. which, who actually knew Delaware sported a D-1 lacrosse team? I lived a mile from their campus for 6 months before I realized it

Either way, the high density east coast lax teams mean's mlax will have to be within a few hours of me at least once a year


May 24th, 2011 at 8:37 PM ^

Delaware actually has a very good program - they were in the Final Four a few years ago (2007?).  I recall that because a kid from our local high school was on the team.

Hopefully Michigan will start playing more of the east coast teams as they move up the ladder.


May 24th, 2011 at 7:53 PM ^

While the usual crowd would seem tiny in the Stadium, think of the recruiting tool it would create to tell the kids that they get to play in the Big House.  There is no track around the field so everyone is pretty close and having the new replay screen would be awesome.

While I would think it is pretty cool to trade spring football games between the Horseshoe and the Big House, it would probably be better to play before the spring game every year like they do in Columbus. 


May 24th, 2011 at 8:17 PM ^

Big House seems to me as a better venue for a once-a-year (or maybe twice - special occasiona only either way) game. It would be very cool to play in the Big House, but an empty stadium is an empty stadium. 

I wonder if Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State could work out an arrangement where they play a "triangle" schedule, with each school getting a home game against one of the other two prior to that school's spring football game (of course, that would require the three schools having their spring games on different weekends).

  • Michigan @ Penn State (Beaver Stadium)
  • Penn State @ Ohio State (Ohio Stadium)
  • Ohio State @ Michigan (Michigan Stadium)

That would be really cool, and a great way for each school to have a well-attended home game in their home stadium against a Big Ten foe. Some unofficial "Big Ten Championship" could be in play, at least until such a time as there's an official Big Ten Conference.


May 24th, 2011 at 8:50 PM ^

I don't think the football coaches at these schools will want to have to consider the lax schedule for their spring game.  They set it and the lax team adjusts. 

But I am really starting to like the idea of the replay screen that will be new in the stadium this year, though. http://www.annarbor.com/sports/um-football/michigan-unveils-planned-sco…

Out in Denver for the MCLA finals at Dick's Sporting Goods stadium even the players were looking up after goals to see the video replay.  With Big Ten Network I bet many of the outdoor games in Ann Arbor will be televised.  

We played at least one game in the Stadium in the early 70's.  We didn't care that the stadium was empty. Administrativly, you have a great facility, the team wants to play on turf.  Why not use it? 

At least until they build something specifically for lacrosse, the stadium might be their outdoor home.  Or how about playing Detroit Mercy at Birmingham Seaholm?  That would actually be good for Detroit to play their as they won't have enough seating at the campus field if Michigan is the visiting team.




May 24th, 2011 at 10:27 PM ^

I think Athletic Directors could probably play a big role in scheduling spring practice, and I can think of at least one who wants to Do Everything Big - and home/home series with two big conference rivals in big stadiums would indeed be Big. Maybe it wouldn't be an every-year thing, but I think it's likely to happen down the road.

Last year, Big Ten spring games were spread over 4 weekends, so it's not crazy to think that the teams might play spring games on different weekends. For reference, from last year:

  • April 9: Purdue
  • April 16: Indiana, Iowa Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State
  • April 23: Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
  • April 30: Michigan State

With a little bit of planning, the ADs could make it happen if they wanted. Basically I'm trying to will this into happening, unrealistic though it may be.


May 24th, 2011 at 8:02 PM ^

I can't WAIT for next lacrosse season now.  I started this season with one lax team to root for, with U-M making it official and me at grad school at UDM now, next year I'll have three.  More fun than a guy should be allowed to have.


May 24th, 2011 at 10:27 PM ^

Very exciting to hear that the actual announcement is actually happening!  I never had a conflict between my college sports allegiances before - like Wahoo, I now have another lax allegiance!  

BTW, re: facility, I am pretty sure UNC plays on a field shared by soccer.  It would make a certain amount of sense.  It is certain, however, that lax will really tear up a soccer field.


May 24th, 2011 at 10:32 PM ^

If they were to use a grass field - regardless of said field's other uses - it would require a lot of attention from groundskeepers. I don't think the fact that it's a soccer field would change much, as most of the spring/summer would be available for regrowing grass.


May 25th, 2011 at 1:32 AM ^

...Michigan weather all spring...lax cleats....sounds like lots of mud for game play.  I figure they have to use Oosterbaan during the first month of the season, at least - ND and 'Cuse are both playing indoors early season.  Any news about whether Glick is being "hardened" for lax?


May 25th, 2011 at 8:35 AM ^

Haven't heard anything about Glick - although the club lacrosse team was hopeful of being able to play there in the future. You have to assume that a varsity program would have a better shot at that.

Shouldn't be too tough to put up some netting behind the goals (they already did it at Oosterbaan for bleachers in the West endzone).


May 24th, 2011 at 11:13 PM ^

I might be overthinking this, but I wonder if the timing of the announcement has to do with the Detroit papers, which only deliver to homes on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.  Announcing on Wednesday lets them put it in the paper that people might actually see.  I know, dying breed yada yada, but it's still a sizable enough audience to make it worth waiting a bit.


May 25th, 2011 at 11:04 AM ^

First of all, congrats to the team and Coach Paul for finishing another stellar club season and bringing varsity lax to Michigan. That's an amazing accomplishment and they deserve all the the thanks and praise from the lacrosse community for it.

Now for blunt words that'll make some folks want to hit me with blunt objects. I don't think J. Paul is the guy to bring Michigan to the next level.

I love Coach Paul, and he's been an amazing club coach. But we'll be competing against Bill Tierney (BILL F***ING TIERNEY!) at Denver, Nick Myers at OSU, and players who are top varsity athletes next year. The guys on the Michigan roster are excellent club athletes, but with an eye on top talent coming out of MD, VA, MA, RI...the talent is going to Duke, UVA, Maryland, Hopkins, Cuse, Princeton...

And in our division, OSU, and DENVER. Who is coached by Bill f***ing Tierney!!!

Quick sidenote: I love Denver's lax webpage. They might as well just put Bill's head on the page and nothing else.

In any event, Michigan has all the prereqs for an out-of-the-gate lacrosse team. We have the academics and east-coast reputation we'll need to attract top players. We'll have a great field to play on; I have no doubt.

I just can't believe Dave Brandon would be opening up the University's wallet to field a club team at the varsity level. I don't know if top players will come to play for John Paul. I still can't believe Michigan, a mid-west school, will be playing in the same division as a team coached by Bill f***ing Tierney. BILL F***ING TIERNEY!!!

I have to imagine we'll be poaching a top coach shortly. If anyone knows differently, please comment.


May 25th, 2011 at 4:30 PM ^

A few on this board can probaly personally attest - Paul's been responsible for much of the fund-raising involved in this - as mgolax notes, he's the one opening the wallet (with his fund-raising), moreso that Michigan.

Also, as one of a seeming number of former players on this blog who have had Paul as a coach (he was an assistant in my time), I'd suggest you don't know much about the guy. I fail to see how he doesn't have the resume that Nick Myers did when he took over OSU.


May 25th, 2011 at 4:34 PM ^

Adding to that train of thought: Michigan isn't Detroit, but he actually has a much muuuuuch better resume than Matt Holtz did when he was hired by the Titans. Both club coaches, but Holtz's Spartans were routinely mediocre whereas Paul's Wolverines have been damn near unbeateable.

Feat of Clay

May 25th, 2011 at 12:57 PM ^

I'll bet the other club LAX teams who regularly got their asses handed to them by Michigan are pretty thrilled, too. 

So does that mean that the players who currently shell out thousands for the privilege of participating, will now be getting athletic scholarships?  Because I'll bet there are some hugely pleased LAX parents in the mix as well.