Cajun’s Corner – SEC Needs D1 Lacrosse


C’mon. We’ve all said it at some point or another. Well, maybe just people in the South have said it. But everyone I know has said it at some point…

The SEC needs NCAA Division 1 lacrosse.

At one point, Bleacher Report had written a short post up about how the sport would succeed in the conference, but it appears that article is over two years old now.  If you google “SEC lacrosse”, you get virtually no results, and there is definitely no angry person with a blog just crying for a change, so I’m going to fix that right now!

This whole “Michigan going D1 and getting practice helmets” thing got me thinking as to why major BCS schools like Michigan are growing the game, and why southern schools are not. Lacrosse is erupting in the South at all levels (even college!) unlike our big sister, Hockey, simply because you can’t really play hockey in the South.  It’s just too hot for the sport to be wildly popular.  Today, I want to get you, the readers, to start talking about this…

Just share some input with me!  To get started, I’ll share some with you:

I think we can all agree that the sustainability of the sport in SEC  schools really comes down to whether or not the team would actually be able to win games. In order to win games, you have to start by recruiting the best talent. The ultimate question: Could an SEC school recruit blue chip level players?

Seriously. Why not us?

Fact: For the most part, SEC schools have giant athletic budgets, some of the finest athletic facilities, pretty nice weather year round, and Athletic Departments all have traditions of excellence.

Opinion: SEC fans are some of the most die hard, loyal fans around. Lacrosse should be a great fit for schools in the South (as evidenced by the overall growth of the sport in the region).

I’ll visit these one step at a time…

1) Athletic Budgets – I’ve already touched on this one in ridiculous detail. You can just click the link above if you want to go there again.

2) Athletic and School Facilities – For the most part, you can assume lacrosse would be played in the soccer facility, if the school doesn’t already have a lacrosse facility (Florida and Vandy). It may be a stretch, but you could also assume that if the university wouldn’t build a lacrosse facility in year one, it would be coming within a few years.
Auburn University
Florida (Has a lacrosse facility)
Louisiana State University
South Carolina

All right. I’m a recruit now. And one of the first things I want to know is where we will be practicing, working out, and playing games.  These facilities are all state of the art.  I’m sold there.  I don’t care who you are or where you’re from – Florida’s lacrosse facility is freaking FINE, and you know it. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t love to play a home game there, in front of new lacrosse fans who are as passionate about the sport as you once were.

I've been to LSU women's soccer games. They actually have great turnouts. They're also remodeling the stadium!

3) Weather – Do I really have to prove that weather is, at the very least, decent year round?  In the Deep South (Gulf Coast areas), we don’t even have snow. Indoor practices only come around in the summer, when it’s too hot. Looking at this month’s weather, Baton Rouge is seeing an average high of 85 degrees.

Please compare that with Ann Arbor, MI, the home of the Michigan Wolverines and their practice helmets.

4) SEC Athletic Departments are used to winning. ADs hate losing in any sport. – I’m not even going to write much here.  Just read the below if you don’t believe me.
Take a look at Florida AD, Jeremy Foley’s track record
LSU has 43 national championships and 109 SEC championships
South Carolina has a few championships under their belt
Alabama likes to win

Florida Gators Athletic Director, Jeremy Foley, was brave enough to build a lacrosse facility, and add Division 1 Women’s lacrosse to Florida’s slate of teams in 2010. In their second year of existence, it can be argued that they’re the best team in the land. (Editor’s Note: Right now they’re ranked #2 in the country)

Take a look at their roster. I think that’s proof enough that top tier blue chip recruits will move South for college. Or maybe they’re just enticed by sandy white beaches of the South?  Something tells me a potential men’s lacrosse player would be enticed by the potential women’s lacrosse players on those sandy white beaches…

Jeremy Foley, AD at Florida, added Women's Lax in 2010

Surely with their success on and off the field (winning and recruiting), Jeremy Foley is thinking he could have the same success with men’s lacrosse…..right?

5) SEC fans are rabid and insane, and I think this sport is right up our alley.

The sport isn’t growing in the South because we’re force feeding it to people in the area.

Instead, it’s exploding because southerners can’t get enough of it!  For a lot of us, Lacrosse is football when football isn’t on TV.

In the past 3 years that I’ve been coaching High School lacrosse, I’ve been stunned by the responses I’ve received from people when I tell them I coach lacrosse. About 50-60% of the time, I hear “OH! I’ve seen that on ESPN! It’s a really intense sport,” which is then followed by genuinely inquisitive questions about the rules and the speed of the sport in general. Amazing how ESPN can single handedly change peoples’ outlook on a sport, huh?

Alabama went from 7 high school teams in 2010 to 17 high school teams in 2011. Seriously. In Alabama, you have Alabama football, and Auburn football. That’s it.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all that these people are going to get into lacrosse in football’s off season.

So you tell me! Am I crazy? Is this just nuts to think that maybe just one SEC school should adopt the sport? Or am I on to something? Does it make sense? Tell me the pros and cons in your eyes, and if you can provide some research to back it up, more power to ya!  I can’t wait to see what LAS Nation has to say about this…

About the author


Knox is a 25 year old High School Head Coach in a small area east of Baton Rouge. He played High School ball for four years, and college ball for about 1 week until he realized his collegiate priorities rested with more important things like partying and eventually trying to get his grades up. He enjoys things that most Louisiana people do – eating boiled crawfish and alligator, a cold Abita Amber, anything LSU, his dog, and his beautiful girlfriend, Audrey. Lacrosse is not listed because most Louisiana people have no idea what lacrosse is.


  • I think you are on the money. Lacrosse and the SEC would go together as well as – maybe even better than – the Big Ten and lax.
    For what it’s worth, I sincerely believe that the Gators will be the first SEC to seriously consider mens lax. I truly believe they have been monitoring everything happening in Jacksonville and kind of using the school as a Guinea pig. Even though countless differences separate the Gators and Dolphins, UF is learning all they can from J’ville’s trials and tribulations.
    The nearly instant success of the womens team has to be pressing the mens issue. A little Nike money and/or a piece of Michigan’s action would be enough to push the school over the edge.

    • again…foley has a lacrosse background. it’s not a new idea.

      JU’s main fundamental difference is that they added lacrosse to attract students to their school (its working!).

      UF would add it to win national championships.

      I hope it happens in my lifetime but there is no good solution to the balance of title 9.

      I suggest they start an NCAA women’s football league and have 85 scholarships. That is not a good solution, but it is a start.

      • I always forget about Foley’s background in lax…

        Great points regarding why the Dolphins added lax vs why Florida would. I definitely agree. Florida’s motivations are more in line with Michigan’s motivations.
        I’m loving the idea of women’s football. It has taken off at the post collegiate level, at least in the upper midwest. Nonexistent at the high school level though. It is probably a more realistic solution than a football exemption. Exempting the money maker would be the easiest, possibly wisest solution.
        Or cheer could be reinstated as a sport. Build an 85 scholarship cheer squad to accommodate all sports and BAM! Probably won’t happen, but I’m willing to bet there are more girls interested and experienced in cheer than most sports added for Title IX.

  • Jeremy Foley played lax at Hobart.

    Michigan is a very very unique and rare situation…no other big schools (FBS) have added men’s lacrosse in 30 years.

    Title 9 and it’s effect on non-revenue men’s sports is the culprit. Find a way around that. (not many D1 mens soccer teams in the southeast either…)

    Most of this post is common knowledge/sense, but thanks for getting the discussion going.

    • You very well could be right!

      I’m convinced that it’s not necessarily a budget/Title IX issue. For example, LSU has an athletic budget of close to $100mil. Nearly double that of the average ACC school.

      I’m convinced that it is a lack of desire or interest on behalf of the Athletic Department, hiding behind a facade of money.

      Just my thoughts!

      • speaking off the top of my head, without researching, yes i’m sure they have a budget of $100 million, but what is their profit? do they profit? they verywell might but if they do, its because of football, the bcs and tv contracts. why would they want to re-invest that money anywhere else?

        • Glad you asked that question. Yes, LSU profits SO MUCH, they’re one of the only self-sustaining Athletic Departments in the country (meaning they receive no government funding)

          I *think* they profit something like an average of $30-50mil a year. If you click on the links above, I’ve already done a 4,000 page post analyzing athletic department budgets from the SEC, ACC, and Big 10

          edit: THis link

          and This link

          are both above but I’ll paraphrase it:
          LSU Athletics is a self-sufficient auxiliary of Louisiana State University. LSU utilizes no state tax dollars to operate the LSU Athletic Department.

          All funding of the LSU Athletic program is generated through ticket sales to athletic events, seat donations associated with ticket sales, corporate sponsorships, radio and television revenue, concessions and merchandising, parking at athletic events, revenue distribution through membership in the Southeastern Conference and privately raised funds through the Tiger Athletic Foundation.

          LSU Athletics contributes to the financial well-being of the University. The LSU Athletic Department annually transfers over $3.5 million to the University in the form of administrative charges, a Chancellor’s Excellence Fund, a Classroom Building Fund and a Campus Environmental Fund.

          double edit: LSU is profiting the $30-50million of of football. After you figure in the non-profit generating sports, they turn a small profit. Still, no athletic department would an entire sport without doing significant fundraising first to offset the cost

          • thank you for your research. it clears up a lot.

            however, think of it like a business….what incentive does the LSU athletic department have in “investing” in a side business that will generate loss?

          • I totally see your point – that’s exactly what an SEC AD would probably say.

            I’d have to answer with another question – What incentive does Michigan/Ohio St/Marquette/Penn St have? (Major schools with ok lax programs/what will be an ok lax program that undoubtedly lose money)

            I’m not really seeing a difference in budget between an SEC school and Michigan, OSU, PSU, Marq.. yet they’re adding the sport? So why can those schools add the sport but not an SEC school?

          • on a guess…ohio state and penn state’s programs predate title ix legislation (1972?)

            marquette doesn’t have a football program. they might be looking to cash in on the boom.

            the michigan move is in response to essentially a division 1 program being built there without help of the university.

            i do not think we’ll see another michigan in the next 15 years. someone might jump to NCAA Div 2 or 3 (lindenwood, chapman, etc.)

            of the ones you mentioned, michigan is most like the SEC schools (big time athletics department, no NCAA lacrosse) and they are certainly a unique case.

  • Michigan is going varsity because they not only have the best team in the MCLA but they have the best program development. JP and his staff have raised an insane amount of money. Mostly to get around title IX. Until these SEC MCLA teams start fund raising and PRing like UM, the AD’s don’t even know they exist. I am all for varsity lax but an AD is going to look at it and say “well our budgets are air tight and we want to bring in a revenue losing sport to an area that the average resident has never heard of the sport.”

    Not unless title IX is repealed. Any lawyers out there?

  • I’m completely with you that SEC lax would be awesome and could potentially be extremely successful within the D1 realm, however you have to look at some other numbers (and some people above have already stated them).

    1. Title IX. Pretty much what it comes down to.
    2. No FBS schools (other than Michigan) have added lax in 30 years.
    3. 75% of athletic programs in the nation are currently losing money (disclaimer: it’s possible that part of that 25% gaining profit could be SEC teams, that number I don’t know)

    Look, I go to UF, I lax there, I’ve always wanted to see a D1 men’s program but these issues (mainly #1) just seem to weigh us down the most. I’ve been to a decent amount of women’s games this year and have felt really encouraged by the crowds they pull and their success, there’s no question if SEC schools added lax it would be extremely popular. I’d even go so far to say they’d have to expand Dizney Stadium to accomodate all the fans if men’s lax came to Florida. Will I think it will happen someday? Yes, probably within 10-20 years long after I’m gone but the biggest question is how will that day come and what needs to change?

    • Great points, but I want to ask if you could clarify point #2. I’ve heard this a couple times now and I’m unsure how that is relevant. Lacrosse hasn’t been a relevant sport in the past 30 years until recently – it wouldn’t surprise me if more schools started to pick it up because of its growing popularity. I’m not attacking your point! Just curious to hear your take on that

      Point #3 – I’m pretty sure the MAJOR SEC schools are all profiting, based on the research I’ve done. I’d bet Vandy’s, Miss Sts and the likes athletic departments are losing money, though.

      • Re#2: i think you are overestimating the growth and popularity of lacrosse. We are certainly experiencing a boom, but not enough to turn it into a revenue generating sport.

        It ties into two points i made above, FBS schools (the only athletic departments that turn a profit) are not interested in adding a sport that will lose money. The growth we’ve seen is at the Jacksonvilles, the Detriot Mercys, etc. who start the program for different reasons than an FBS school would.

        • I’d really like to see the numbers behind lacrosse programs as far as profits go, but I can’t imagine them making a lot of money. Other than championship weekend and special events, I don’t really see a great attendance record in lacrosse (if anyone knows for certain or can research it, I’d love to know), so the game still has a lot of room to grow and it certainly will. Just a little history, football wasn’t really popular in the US until TV came about, so hopefully TV can do the same for lax over the next decade or so (it has already had a visible impact over the last 5 years or so).

          But great points jamlando, there is no reason to add a program that won’t make money. In the end, that’s usually what it comes down to.

  • I don’t disagree with the statements, but I’d argue they are completely transferable to the Pac-12 as well. Two teams, Utah and Colorado, wouldn’t have ideal weather in February, and they’re the new guys. Also, SoCal has a track record of rabid fandom for lacrosse events even at the club level, just look at the recent Chapman/UM games’ attendance. Couple thousand, if not more.

    Also, as for the facilities argument, if you are talking natural grass on those soccer fields you are looking at a harder battle to use them. We have field turf and our AD and soccer coaches are completely anal about us even painting lines. It was natural grass before the upgrade 5 years ago and we weren’t allowed within sniffing distance. Don’t underestimate the immature territorialness of AD’s and individual sport coaches.

    But all in all I totally agree, lacrosse would fit in nicely in the South as a varsity college sport.

    • I agree with the PAC-12 having a strong chance at lax. Colorado is another program that has fairly consistent rumors about going D1, even though nothing truly back those rumors up. Working the Buffs’ favor are Denver and Air Force already having programs.
      Utah is a boom state for lax and the Utes are getting stronger yearly. Their high school programs are rapidly improving as well. A move by BYU to varsity probably would not hurt.
      You can say the same about all of the other schools in the conference – at an even higher level. With the bulk of the conference enjoying supreme weather year round and deep financing (except the two public schools in Cali, I guess). Add in a healthy dose of Nike sponsorship across most of the conference for good measure.
      Specifically to USC, there has been talk from the university’s president about adding me’s lax:
      “I wanted to give priority to the women lacrosse and then in the next three to five years I think we are going to be in a position to also introduce a men’s lacrosse team.”
      I’ve posted that several times before, but whenever it is relevant to the discussion I bring it up. It’s not conclusive, but it is more than empty speculation by posters and trolls.

  • Just because there is money out there doesn’t mean a school will spend it on adding a new sport, especially one that a) will lose money, and b) doesn’t represent it’s “constituency.”

    John Paul has spoken/written at length in various places about the culture of major college football athletic departments and what it takes to get things done there: i.e. adding a non-revenue sport. He listed the several ways a non-revenue sport might be added. As I recall, these were the avenues he noted:

    1) Enough of a grass-roots build up locally to make the “demand” for the varsity sport legitimate and impossible to ignore. He noted that men’s soccer was added at UM when the coach was able to demonstrate there were many talented soccer players leaving the state to play at schools like Duke and UNC.

    2) Hire an AD who is a lacrosse fan and/or former player who will go out and make it happen on his/her own.

    3) The grandson of somebody on the Forbes 500 joins the club team, or is a hotshot high school laxer, and the big cheese foots the whole bill for bumping the program to varsity.

    4) Enough people of influence – major donors, administrators – want it to happen. Hand-in-hand with this is these people putting checkbooks together and coming up with the money to completely endow the program so that the AD doesn’t pay a dime to operate the team. For good measure, you might want to come up with enough money to completely endow a women’s team for good measure.

    Let’s say that 2 and 3 are unlikely in any scenario, and 1, while getting closer, is still decades away yet. That leaves 4.

    Let’s further assume that it costs roughly $1 million to run a fully-funded, competitive D1 team. Considering average investment return of ~ 9% (historical stock market annual return), you’ll need an endowment of no less than $12 million for a varsity lacrosse team. Throw in the women’s team you’ll need to add for Title IX purposes and you’re looking at ~$24 million for both.

    Michigan is going Division 1 because JP hustled his ass off for years, made a ton of friends in the upper administration and in the big-ticket donor circles, hit the number the athletic department gave him, AND hired a new athletic director who was receptive to the idea.

    Of the major BCS schools out there without lacrosse, who possibly fits the bill for any of 1-4?
    -Immediately: FSU, CSU, CU-Boulder, BYU, and ASU come to mind. All are operating at a high level and I believe that the FSU coach has mentioned that the athletic department gave him a fundraising # to work for.

    The other component to this is: why not cut other men’s sports to make room for lacrosse? While this is a decent idea in a vacuum, the reality is those other sports have a history with the university, and more importantly an alumni base. Dropping swimming or golf is a great idea until you piss off all the alums who came through those programs and promptly stop giving to the university because their sport got cut.

    In summary, I don’t think Michigan is the beginning of some sort of groundswell of BCS schools adding lacrosse. That seems at least a generation away to me. It is an isolated occurrence, the product of a ton of hard work by a few people. It means good things for the sport, but nothing more. In the short term, the growth of the game will continue to be at schools like Detroit, Jacksonville, High Point, Marquette, etc.

  • I think that with lacrosse being the fastest growing sport, that should turn heads within it’s self. I’m totally with LAS and Grow The Game, isn’t that was lacrosse is all about? Growing the Game, and making friends in doing it, that’s the lax culture. If you really think about it, any SEC school could go D1 and profit it from, Yeah it takes some money to field a team, but out of for ex that 30-50 Mil TheCreole was talking about. It can be done, and all these sound like excuses to me. Lacrosse can be done if they really want to for these SEC schools. If they did go D1 this would tremendously GROW THE GAME!

  • It’s definitely food for thought. I’d qualify that by saying this.

    It won’t happen any time soon because SEC schools with 85 football scholarships need 3-4 women’s teams to equal those 85 with just one men’s team. Makes it nearly impossible to add a men’s lacrosse team with an additional 12.5 men’s scholarships that would have to be equaled with another woman’s team.

    Perhaps growing MCLA is the answer and maybe a realignment that matches SEC rivals would be a suitable answer.

    I think MCLA is a great alternative for a number of players (including myself) who could play at a number of lower NCAA schools, but want to go to a school with great athletics teams while playing lax. Currently there are only 2 teams that could really be considered national football powers who also have D1 lax teams (Ohio St. and Penn St.)

    That really limits options but MCLA allows a lot of top players to continue playing lacrosse at the college level while still getting the “SEC experience.”

    Further Michigan is in a completely and incomparable position because they have received money from their Athletic Department without having questions asked for years. Makes things a lot different from any other MCLA team.

    • 1. Birmingham-Southern and Huntingdon, both in AL, have Varsity Mens lacrosse
      2. South Carolina has Mens Soccer.(they were in the ACC back in the 70s however), but youre right that the conference as a whole isnt jumping into Mens soccer

  • You are so right! LSU should be a force in bringing D1 lacrosse to the SEC! with both men and women’s teams!!!!!!! I am a former LSU athlete and have a daughter who will be playing club…it’s the fastest growing sport in the US because it is fast and fun to watch!!!!!!!!!!

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