New Program Watch - Lacrosse

Submitted by L'Carpetron Do… on March 13th, 2014 at 9:45 AM

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.  

 

Detroit

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.

 

Furman

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.

 

Mercer

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.  

 

Richmond

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.  

 

Monmouth

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.  

 

Bellarmine

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

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.   

 

High Point

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.  

 

Jacksonville

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.

 

BU

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.  

 

Michigan

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.

 

Comments

Mgotri

March 13th, 2014 at 10:30 AM ^

Fun fact: Junior faceoff specialist, Brad Lott, is from Louisville and went to one of the big catholic high schools here (Trinity).

The team is going to Louisville to play Bellermine this weekend. The softball team will also be in town for a tournament at Louisville. So it will be a busy sports weekend for Michigan fans in Louisville.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

March 13th, 2014 at 10:38 AM ^

Itty-bitty correction: Mercer is in Macon, GA, not Atlanta.

I was a little worried they'd go the way of Presbyterian myself (Presbyterian's lacrosse program only lasted a few years because they couldn't find a conference.)  But now that they have a conference of like-minded, similar schools at a competition level just their size, I wouldn't worry.

For extra reference, new programs next year will be UMass-Lowell and NJIT.

L'Carpetron Do…

March 13th, 2014 at 5:27 PM ^

Yeah - I'm afraid of a repeat of the Presbyterian situation as well.  I'm surprised they dropped it so quickly.  They really needed to ride it out a bit longer for teams to start adding.  And they should have just joined one of the crack/makeshift/temporary conferences that every team seems to be a part of these days.  Lacrosse conference alignment these days is all over the place and constantly changing.  .  Look at Michigan's conference this year and look what its going to be next year.    

I just hate to see any schools dropping the sport.  

Thanks for the heads up - I'll change out Atlanta...

MGoBlog Fan

March 17th, 2014 at 11:50 AM ^

Great discussion, thanks!

Mercer also has Kyle Hannan as head coach; he was pretty successful at DIII Goucher (129-71 in 12 years).   He was also a player for Jim Berkman.

Word on the street here in Austin is that the University of Texas will be going DI sooner rather than later.  Speculation is that they will take the Denver route and hire one of the big name coaches from the East.

laxalum

March 19th, 2014 at 8:41 AM ^

DeLuca would be a great hire pretty much anywhere. 

But I would be shocked if Texas adds lacrosse any time soon.  We all hear these "word on the street" rumors about new programs at big name schools all the time, and except for Michigan they have all been false for the past 35 years.  A few years ago it was Florida State getting all the buzz.  Suprise me Longhorns.

MGoBlog Fan

March 19th, 2014 at 3:12 PM ^

Texas pumping $4 million into renovating the lacrosse field just about 2 years ago is a pretty good indicator to me that they are serious about moving up from MCLA.

Some amount of the speculation in Texas about UT going D1 is wishful thinking by local coaches, to be sure -- pretty much as soon as UT goes D1, UIL (the Texas HS sports authority) will make lacrosse an official scholastic sport (vice the club sport it currently is).  But the "word on the street" I mentioned came from a coach who is named elsewhere on this page, FWIW.

MGoBlog Fan

March 19th, 2014 at 4:06 PM ^

DeLuca is a good coach and he deserves another opportunity, but I think he brings too much baggage for UT.  I wouldn't be surprised to see him turn up in DII or DIII. 

 I'm a big Lars Tiffany fan myself, but he's still relatively new at Brown and doesn't really have the proven record.

No, I was thinking Texas would go after a guy like Pietramala.  They also might be able to lure an older coach like John Desko or Dom Starsia who is looking for a new challenge and warmer climate.

laxalum

March 13th, 2014 at 11:38 AM ^

Good perspective.  Highlights how quickly the game is growing.

LandryHD - it's on TV a fair amount.  Mostly ESPNu, but also NBC Sports Network, CBS College Sports, and other random games on regional channels like Altitude and SNY.  If you look you can find multiple televised games every weekend.  I'm hopeful that BTN will get into it in a bigger way once the conference starts up next year.

This has been discussed on here a lot already, but I don't think the UM start is slower than expected.  They started with the club roster and no transfers.  No way that team was winning more than a game or two in their first year, and even year two was a stretch.  Compare that to High Point where they have three recruiting classes and a number of impactful transfers.  Most new programs have built that way.  Michigan chose to do it differently.  With two classes here now you're just starting to see how that pays off.  Our boys have also played a much tougher schedule than any of the other new programs.  After the Maryland game next week they will have played four (FOUR!) top 10 teams already.  We should have high expectations, but it will take time.

The ECAC is not weak either, even though it's a lame duck conference.  The other four schools are all still significantly ahead of Michigan.  Bellarmine this weekend may be the best shot at a conference win this year.  Ohio State was a quarterfinal team last year, and Fairfield is playing very well this season so far.  Air Force is flirting with being a tournament team, and playing them out there at altitude is not an easy proposition.  I'd be very pleasantly surprised if we pulled off a conference win this year.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

March 13th, 2014 at 1:46 PM ^

Eh, the ECAC, if not weak per se, is certainly much weaker.  And not just for losing Denver and Loyola.  Several teams are down quite a bit.  Ohio is a shadow of the team they were last year - 1-4 with a loss to Hofstra and only a 3-goal win over Marquette to keep them from a goose egg.  They're not a tournament team.  Air Force is definitely not a tournament team, not with losses to Canisius(!) and VMI(!!!!).

And Bellarmine, still an OK team, but not remotely invincible.  Though if the Air Force game were not on the road (thus, in the thin air) I would suggest that the Zoomies are the most likely conference win right now.  But at any rate, an ECAC tourney berth is very much there for the taking and Michigan could even win it with enough breaks.  I wouldn't have said that last year even if DU and Loyola were not in it.  Fairfield looks like the easy favorite to my mind.

If you buy the LaxPower computer rankings, the ECAC averages out right about the same as the America East, though the A-East has more extreme entries on either end of the spectrum.

WolvinLA2

March 14th, 2014 at 2:20 PM ^

Although some of these teams have seen more success more quickly than us in terms of wins (though a lot of that can be attributed to SOS), we have certainly been recruiting extremely well for a new program so we should separate ourselves from this pack fairly quickly.  And by fairly quickly, I mean 2-3 years from now.  

MgoBlueprint

March 15th, 2014 at 3:18 AM ^

I grew up in Baltimore and played off and on through middle school. My family moved to Atlanta two weeks before my freshman year of high school. When I first moved to GA, lacrosse had just been sanctioned. The growth has been incredible down there. I was lucky enough to have been recruited and played both varsity and club in college. Ive also coached at Lovett down in Atlanta, which was one of the first legitimate programs in the southeast. So I'm a little bit familiar with some of those programs that are still in their infancy. I'd like to add on to what the OP and some of the previous posters wrote.

Presbyterian- 

I knew a few kids that played there. I think their problems were talent, timing, and money. I received and offer from them when they were starting their program. I didnt give them much thought. I gave a lot of D-3 schools more consideratin that Presbyterian. The location and academics were the two biggest deterrants at the time. The thought of getting pummelled for four years wasnt very appealing at all. Most of the kids who went there were fringe D-1/D-3 guys like myself. Its tough to draw talent to a new program, its tougher to draw talent to a new program in the middle of South Carolina. Timing hurt PC aswell. They may have been the first D-1 program in the southeast outside of UNC and Duke. Because of that they didnt have many if any teams that they could be competitive with that were close by. They were driving hours to get beat. That takes a toll, and its expensive. 

 

High Point/ Jacksonville-

Both of the schools were able to be competitive more quickly than Presbyterian primarily because of the accelerated recruiting cycle and an increased supply of talent. Kids are now committing during their sophmore and junior seasons. Most of the kids outside of your traditional hotbeds of Baltimore, NJ/PA, and Long Island dont have the opportunity to get serious looks until their Junior year or after (Champ Camp/ 205). These are very talented kids that are being picked up by the newer D-1 programs because the traditional powers are filling up their classes 2-3 years before they step on campus. These schools also have the talent to play competitive games against teams at a similar stage in program development.

 

BU-

Their situation is similar to Michigan's in the sense that it was a club to varsity jump. The difference is BU's upperclassmen played for an average club team, whereas Michigan had a Club dynasty. We played BU in fall ball a couple of years ago and beat them. We had a couple of varsity dropouts, but we werent anything special. BU has a tough few years ahead of them, but I can see them being on par with a Rutgers, St. John's, Villanova or Drexel in a few years. Its a great school, in one of the best college towns in the country. 

 

The influx of new programs is great for the sport. It's fueled by increased popularity nationwide. I really think some of these programs will continue to make progress. Theres already more parity now than there was 5 or even 10 years ago.

Michigan has the resources to become a real player in a few years. They have the resources, facilities, and pedigree to really make strides relatively quickly.