Editor’s Note: After reading a recent Lax All Stars blog titled “Who Will Add D1 Lacrosse Next?” and the follow up post “Responding To Criticism From The Growth Blog“, Tony Lowe of Elev8 Sports Institute got to thinking of the reasons why big time sport schools, like Florida State and University of Florida, have not ventured into Men’s Lacrosse, while schools like Boston University, Richmond, Furman, Marquette, and Jacksonville have.
The full answer is actually quite complicated, but in my opinion, the root cause and dominating issue surrounding the current expansion model is Title IX.
For those unaware of Title IX, it’s a portion of the Education Amendments enacted in 1972 stating that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…”
Now, many of the lacrosse players reading this blog may not know a world where women are discriminated against and denied equal opportunities in education or sports. The reason that they don’t know about that time is because of Title IX’s many successes. Lately, Title IX has been in the news quite a bit again as ESPN celebrated 40 years of Title IX, and recently began airing a variation of their 30 for 30 documentaries, called “9 for IX.”
While Title X has been very beneficial in the quest for equal rights in education, like almost any overarching legislation, it has also caused some problems. Here is where it relates to Lacrosse:
When Title IX states that all “education programs or activities” should be equal and not denied on the basis of sex, that means, in the world of college sports, that you basically have to have as many Women’s sports as Men’s, or at least be working towards that goal of equal opportunity. There have been many different interpretations, but most sports, including Lacrosse, have Men’s and Women’s versions. Soccer, Volleyball, Track and Field, Tennis and Swimming all offer Women’s and Men’s versions as well. Baseball has Softball.
The issue, at the end of the day, is often the fact that Football has no women’s sport to truly offset it as a men’s sport. Field Hockey is not even close in terms of numbers of players, or expenses. If a school has football, they are often times pushed by some portions of Title IX to add a sport on the women’s side, or find a better balance, especially if they plan on adding new sports.
For schools like Boston University, and Marquette, who each added Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse recently, the solution is simple: they don’t have football programs. Furman has Women’s Volleyball but not Men’s. A Furman grad informed me that they also got a large donation that stipulated lacrosse had to be added as part of the donation. Their President is also a pr0-lacrosse guy coming from Yale and W&L. It seems like Title IX may not have played a role at this smaller school for those reasons. Of course then we look at Richmond, which has 7 sport for men, and 9 sports for women, and it seems like a potentially different situation. Jacksonville University has added Women’s Sand Volleyball to offset their football program to some degree.
As for the two Florida school mentioned earlier, Florida State can add Men’s Lacrosse easier then University of Florida. FSU currently doesn’t have a varsity Women’s Lacrosse team so they could conceivably add Men’s and Women’s lacrosse to be compliant with Title IX. It would still be uneven, but a team for both sexes get us closer to equality. The University of Florida however, already has Women’s Lacrosse, so they would have to find another Women’s sport to add, if they truly wanted to consider adding men’s lacrosse.
No one can dispute the historic accomplishments of Title IX, but for men’s lacrosse, and other smaller sports intent on growing, it does have its flaws. Maybe the solution is to allow Football only as an exempted extra men’s sport, or to recognize cheerleading as a varsity sport. Maybe the solution for lacrosse growth is something else, and to focus on non-football schools. But until a new solution is proposed, Title IX will have a huge impact on the growth of BOTH men’s and women’s lacrosse, at the NCAA Division 1 level.
Check out more from Tony Lowe on Elev8 Institute’s blog!