In the future, lacrosse nerds and scholars will measure the history of the game in B.M., Before Michigan and A.M. After Michigan eras. So, in Year 3 A.M., I thought it would be interesting to check on the young programs out there. I often find myself pulling for these teams to have successful seasons. I think that if they succeed it should bode well for the further expansion of the men's game in Division 1. While lacrosse is growing like wildfire in Divisions II & III and on the women’s level, there has been a mini-wave of new Division 1 teams. Here’s a look at a few of the new(ish) programs, many of which have Michigan on their schedule.
UDM’s program is still newish - only 6 years old. It had the perfect recipe for adding lacrosse - a small school from outside traditional lacrosse areas that wanted to up its athletic department profile. And best of all - no football. After a winless first season, UDM put up a 3 win season, two 6-win seasons and a 5 win season, advancing to their conference championship game the last three years (it helps to play in an outrageously weak conference). Last year the Titans found themselves matched up in the first round of the NCAAs against Notre Dame and lost 9-7(!) after actually blowing a sizable lead.
Poor Furman. They’re having a rough go of it in their first year. Winless in all games so far and they’ve really only been competitive against Michigan. After a game vs Duke on the 18th, their schedule eases up and they may be able to get their first ever victory. Down the road, however, Furman should be set up for success. They’re helmed by longtime Navy coaching legend Richie Meade, which shows commitment to the sport on the part of the athletic department. They’re also the only D-1 team in South Carolina and one of few in the Deep South so that should count for something.
The Macon, GA school has been taking its lumps so far but is getting better. In 2012, Mercer had a chance to notch the program’s first historical win vs Michigan but our boys came away with their first D-1 win instead. Combine a warm spring climate with being the only game in town in a region where the sport is growing and that should put some butts in the seats and attract recruits. The Bears managed 4 wins last year and they opened 2014 with a 17-6 win over newbie BU. They also lost a close one to Detroit before dispatching Richmond. For some reason, I find myself really pulling for Mercer to do well to keep its program alive. There are no heavyweights on the schedule so maybe they can make some strides this year.
The Spiders almost pulled off the upset of the century in the program’s inaugural game against Virginia. UVA had to sweat out a tight 2nd half against Richmond to avoid their own lacrosse version of The Horror. If there is such a thing as a good loss, this is probably the greatest loss of all time. Richmond could end up being very good in the future. It has what I consider to be the recipe for success - strong academics, lots of east coast appeal, relatively warm spring weather and an athletic department that doesn’t have an insane focus on football. It’s also in lacrosse country. Sadly, after taking UVA the distance, its possible they don’t win a game all year.
Oh boy to have Monmouth’s schedule. If JP could go back in time to play Monmouth’s first season schedule, he would kick Doc Brown right in the balls and hijack the Delorean. The Hawks’ inaugural season schedule features only two teams (Marist and Lehigh) who had winning records in 2013. The rest of the schedule is made up of your typical new teams and perpetual cellar dwellers. But they’re 0-5 thus far on the breezy schedule so we’ll see how it turns out. Monmouth is in lacrosse-heavy NJ which should help with recruiting.
So when my father, who seemingly knows every college in the U.S. heard Bellarmine was adding lacrosse he asked “where the hell is Bellarmine?”. He never heard of it - but has anyone? Well, Bellarmine is a small (football-less) Catholic liberal arts school in Louisville, KY founded in 1950 which added lacrosse in 2005. I was sure Teams 1 & 2 would tally victories against them, but Bellarmine is actually proving pretty legit. They went 7-7 last year with impressive, close losses to Ohio State (7-9), Loyola (6-8), and (Denver 10-11 in Double OT!). Bellarmine is already dangerous and this could be the year they finally pull an upset for that program-defining win. They could be 5-1 by the time they play Ohio State which could be that win ( hopefully Michigan will take them down this Saturday and they’ll be 4-2 instead).
Marquette’s 5-win inaugural season vs a fairly serious schedule will be the gold standard for new programs going forward. The Golden Eagles’ seamless leap to the NCAA ranks is especially surprising because Michigan used to mop the floor with them at the club level. In their first season they even upset Bellarmine and Air Force. So far in 2014, they’ve lost to Lehigh and Ohio State but shocked Hofstra. Its interesting to see where they’ll go this year.
HP surprised Michigan last year in its first season, taking what Michigan thought was going to be a sure victory. The Panthers also stunned Towson in its second game ever. HP had the optimal conditions for adding lacrosse - a small east coast private school looking for increased exposure and applications and to beef up its athletic prowess, in a warm weather climate and no football. Hopefully it’ll catch on down there and they’ll make some waves. They’re 5-2 so far and beat our Michigan boys again this year.
The only Division 1 program in the state of Florida, Jacksonville, a smallish, private institution added lacrosse in 2010. The Dolphins haven’t been bad. They won 6 games in their inaugural campaign, including a W over a Denver squad who would end up in the tournament that year. Jax followed with a 5-win season in 2011, a 6 win season in 2012 (including one over Michigan) and an 8 win season in 2013. They’re 0-4 so far this year though, but the schedule is going to ease up to what they’re used to.
Like Furman, BU is winless in its first year so far. Unfortunately, unlike Furman, the schedule gets tougher down the stretch with games against Harvard, Loyola and Duke in 3 of their last 4. They had their chance earlier in the season against perennial scrubs like Mercer, Vermont and Canisius but came away with a few close losses. BU is a hockey school with no football so the choice to go D-1 was probably easier than it was for most schools.
Well, you know all about them. M had a much slower start than anticipated (I fully expected them to storm into Division 1 and rack up 6 or so wins in their first season). Sadly, my prognostications have been more on the mark for other teams. Nevertheless, they are starting to turn it on now with 3 wins in 2014, tripling their 2013 total. After getting run off the field by Penn State in the opener, Michigan responded with a blowout win over Mercer and a tight victory over Detroit before a sloppy but admirable effort against Hopkins. M almost landed their signature win against Cornell in OT, but alas it wasn’t meant to be. They then followed it up with a clunker vs High Point and a close win over Furman. So, in conclusion this team is still a total mystery. The good news is the conference looks pretty weak and AF, Fairfield, Bellarmine and Ohio could all be winnable games. Go Get ‘Em Blue!
Of course, I wish the new D-1 programs out there were Stanford, Texas, Florida and UCLA but that’s another story. I also have a diary about former big-time DI lacrosse programs which I’ll put up soon, but I figured the lacrosse nerds would enjoy this in the mean time.