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Cajun’s Corner – Why Are They Clubs?

25 - Published May 17, 2010 by in College

It is truly my dream to see varsity lacrosse in every school large and small across the country, but none more than LSU. I really do think of how cool it would be to buy season tickets, and concessions and sit on the front row to watch the Tigers play the Heels.

Most are laughing right now, and that makes perfect sense considering LSU is one of the least likely schools to adopt the sport, but hey, it’s my dream and a boy can dream. Louisiana has a long way to go but maybe I’ll see it before I die.

Today I was sitting around, pondering things that only Buddha could comment on, when a question popped into my head. “Why is it that college clubs are clubs, and not varsity sponsored sports to begin with?” Researching was commenced. I didn’t want hypotheticals or theories.

Researching

I wanted hard facts. Quotes. Testimonials. Dollars and Cents. Graphs. Everything. I want evidence as to why I can’t have what I want right this instant.

This is a long, long blog with lots of links and information, so brace for impact and take your time.

Title IX – The Cause for Suffocating the Growth of Lacrosse?

I won’t deny it. I love the MCLA, but every time I read about Michigan maybe making the jump, I get excited. Don’t you? Why haven’t they made the jump yet?

One of the most heated discussions for male laxers is anything dealing with Title IX. According to a whole bunch of blogs, articles, and news outlets, Title IX is basically the only thing to blame for the lack of Division 1 lacrosse teams in the nation, among other sports (wrestling, men’s soccer, fencing).

Now let me go ahead and stress this now – I’m a full fledged supporter of Title IX’s intentions. It’s done incredible things for incredible, deserving people. And while I do think there’s bound to be a way to reform it for the betterment of lacrosse, I’m not the guy with all the answers.

I’m just the guy who wasted three days digging up info on athletic programs and budgets for you to analyze.

So until I hear some actual proposals on how to “fix” Title IX, I’m not going to hop on a bandwagon that wants to destroy something that’s been overall beneficial to thousands (if not millions) of people, and I’m not going to push an agenda on you. Today’s blog is all about listening to both sides.

Let’s face it, I’m a male laxer in a non-traditional lacrosse area, and I’d kill to see the sport I love more available to people in my area.

The sport is virtually non-existent for girls in Louisiana. There are two high school girl’s teams, and LSU has a club. That’s about it for the gals.

C.E. Byrd Girls lacrosse in Shreveport, La

CE Byrd HS Girl's Lacrosse (Shreveport, LA)

It’s hard to promote school sponsorship, or growth of the sport in general, when inequalities are already present. All the while lacrosse is blowing up for boy’s at the high school level, as the high school’s are considering them school clubs.

This isn’t really a loophole to get around T9, because the clubs have to fund themselves 100%. Most of the funding comes from soliciting donations, and membership dues. The club that I coach has annual dues in the range of $250-400.

For those who don’t know, Title IX was enacted in 1972 to address a major problem in the United States. It made tremendous legal strides to promote gender-based equality in pretty much every aspect of life.

When referring to Title IX, most people only look to collegiate athletics, but in reality, it addresses all levels of education, sexual harassment, and workplace equality. For more positive info on Title IX, and some success stories since it’s inception, check out http://www.titleix.info/

Looking at the statistics, the inequalities in 1972 between men and women are absolutely mind blowing. I like to think we’ve come a long way in the past 38 years.

Schools and Institutions must play a careful balancing act

Title IX Creates a Balancing Act

But like all arguments, there are two sides to the story. Unfortunately for Title IX supporters, there’s a lot more opposing info out there in Internetland than happy faces.

To better understand the opponents of Title IX, I joined facebook groups, read blogs, visited websites, and joined more facebook groups. Out of all of these, only two of them really hit home with me (read also: didn’t sound crazy).

The first was an article from The Hoya, Georgetown’s school newspaper. This article ran on April 23rd of this year. I’ll go on record saying that it sucks that the guys would have to give up a sport in order to field a lacrosse team. Something about that just doesn’t seem fair to me (or more importantly, to the athletes who will receive the cuts).

I guess part of me is selfish, in that I just want to see SEC and ACC schools field varsity men’s and women’s teams before I die. But as it’s already been stated by one of LAS’s very own (coincidentally in a post about NOLA), these schools are going to have to give up other sports in order to field a lacrosse team. Often times it’s suggested that schools cut out baseball.

Give up baseball? Aint happenin down here

Sorry, but giving up a sport to make room for lacrosse is out of the question for any school. Say for a moment that LSU had lacrosse instead of baseball. How would you feel if someone decided to cut out the lacrosse program completely to make room for baseball? (You can interchange “LSU” with the school of your choice). I would start riot. Likewise, I think if you cut out baseball programs, baseball fans and players would do the same.

Random comment: Danny McBride plays the best characters on TV and in movies. Period. “Sure, I’ve been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I’m not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren’t as good. That used to be called patriotism.” – Kenny Powers

Back to business. Adding more sports to the equation means budget cuts in the existing sports, making them less competitive. Or it means increasing already astronomical budgets, and ultimately tuition. We’ll talk about that in a second.

So we can’t cut a sport, or it’s funding. And we can’t increase our budget without increasing ticket prices, or tuition. So it appears we’re at a stalemate.

The next argument that struck my attention came from the UConn lacrosse team. Check out their “Case for Lacrosse” page. Very interesting facts and statistics. After reading their website a few times over, I found it really hard not to think “Hmph. They have an interesting point…”

But again, I’m not finding any fair solutions to the problem. Getting rid of a men’s sport altogether to make room for lacrosse isn’t a fair solution, and beyond that, it’s only a local solution. If UConn wants to get rid of their baseball team to make room for lacrosse, so be it. That doesn’t fix the problem for other schools like UTexas, FSU, or Michigan, who all refer to Title IX as one of their biggest obstacles.

But after looking at these details closely, I’m starting to wonder if Title IX is really the problem.

The Comparisons

In this part, I’ll compare budgets of prospective SEC schools, prospective ACC schools, and ACC schools that already have lacrosse as a varsity sport. Realizing that LSU is the least likely candidate in the entire SEC to field a lax team, I’m still going to refer to them for most of the comparisons. Bear with me.

Let’s turn back to our Hoya article for a second. Since we’re going with The Hoya, I’ll focus on Wake Forest, and then make comparisons. According to this site, Wake Forest has an athletic budget of ~$40 million.

Compare that to SEC schools’ budgets for a second. Or read about Michigan’s athletic budget.

The sports offered at LSU that are not offered at Wake Forest include gymnastics (women), and swimming & diving (men and women). The sport offered at Wake Forest not offered at LSU is women’s field hockey. So there’s not a huge disparity between sports offered.

Wake Forest's BB&T Stadium - Largest crowd: 37,623

Wake Forest's BB&T Stadium. Largest Crowd: 37,623

Tigeer Stadium - Largest Crowd: 92,400

Tiger Stadium. Largest Crowd: 92,400

It’s obvious that football reigns supreme in the south. SEC schools dish out big bucks in order to make the big bucks. Football has it’s rightful place in college institutions (sorry, Wilson). LSU profits $39 million from football. Compare that to Wake Forest’s entire athletic budget of $40 million. For a list of the top 10 football revenue schools in 2005, click (my guess is this list hasn’t changed much).

Assumption: Non-revenue generating sports depend on revenue generating sports (football primarily, but also baseball and basketball) to fund their programs. Therefore, schools that generate tons of money from their athletics typically can support sports that don’t generate as much (if any) profit, while schools with less income like Wake Forest will probably have to wait a bit longer before considering lacrosse.

Right?

In retrospect, that assumption doesn’t make sense. If that were the case, then all big schools would have lacrosse teams, and the Stony Brooks of the world probably wouldn’t have lacrosse.

Now let’s look at a school that currently has Men’s Varsity Lacrosse – Virginia.

Here’s a look at some ACC schools’ budgets.

Despite having a significantly smaller budget than LSU, UVa offers six sports that are not offered at LSU:
Men’s Soccer
Men’s Lax
Wrestling
Women’s Rowing
Women’s Lax
Women’s Field Hockey

Klockner Stadium (UVa Lax Field) - Record Crowd: 7,807

Now is where I start to think “Wait a minute. You’re telling me that out of LSU’s $85+ million budget, they can’t afford to spend $3 million on fielding a competitive lacrosse team (men and women), while a school with a $55 million budget is ranked #1 in the nation? Really?……Really?”

This man's salary ($4 mil/yr) is more than the cost to field a Men's and Women's Lax Team

This, to me, says that the decision not to field a lacrosse team has less to do with Title IX, but more a lack of interest from the Athletic Directors and Fundraisers.

Perhaps there’s more to budget allocation than I’m aware of. After all, I’ve never worked in a school’s accounting or athletic departments, so what do I know? I found this site, which is a report from 2005 that shows how public colleges spent their athletic budgets. A balance sheet of sorts.

Schools without lacrosse:

Michigan Athletic Budget 04-05

Texas Athletic Budget (04-05)

LSU Athletic Budget (04-05)

Figures that stick out to me – Football’s Team Travel Expense. $1.5+ million to ride on a bus and stay in a hotel? Both Michigan and LSU only had 4 road games in 2005. Texas had 5 road games, but two of those were in Texas (Baylor and A&M). How did Michigan do it for so much cheaper?

I notice some pretty hefty losses in those non-revenue generating sports. So is it Title IX’s fault that these schools are forced to participate in activities that don’t generate money? If that’s the case, what is Virginia, UNC, Syracuse’s secret? How do they comply with T9, and still manage to support a successful lacrosse team on such a smaller budget?

Or is it even a big deal that LSU/UT/UM are posting losses in some sports to begin with? Looking at the Expense to Revenue Difference Total, they’re still posting multi-million dollar gains.

Let’s take a look at some of the lax-happy schools’ expenses.

Virginia Athletic Budget (04-05)

UNC Athletic Budget (04-05)

Syracuse was somehow exempted from participating in this athletic budget survey, so I thought it would be interesting to look up a school that currently does not have a football team, but does have a lacrosse team.

UMBC Athletic Budget (04-05)

Cutting it close there, Tar Heels.

I would love to see Hopkins budget considering their nice contract with ESPN-U this year.

Figures that stick out to me – both UMBC and UVa posted some nice gains in the “Non-Program Specific” column, as opposed to LSU, Texas, and Michigan, who posted massive losses ($-18 million, $-30 million, and $-8 million respectively).

Could you make the argument that these lax-happy schools aren’t playing big time college football, which is why they can afford the additional sports? Hard to make that argument for the ACC schools when you notice that salaries, student aid, and Total Operating expense figures are comparable. Hell, the 2010 Football season opener for LSU is against UNC in Atlanta, and most are predicting it will be a close game.

So what is it?

Conclusion

I have no clue. You might be able to make an argument that Title IX is a reason that lacrosse isn’t growing, I don’t think it’s the reason.

Here’s my best guess: Lacrosse just isn’t a big, prime time sport yet. And because it’s not a prime time sport, schools that would field a team could sustain massive losses in building facilities, scholarships, travel costs, etc.

Say U of Florida moves to NCAA D-1 next year. Who will they play? Cuse? Hopkins? UNC? UVa? Now that I have a feeling for how much travel costs for four away games are, I can’t imagine what travel costs for Florida would be.

And would anybody who’s not a laxrat buy tickets to see Florida vs Georgetown? Sure, that sounds awesome to us, but to Joe Blow on the street, it could matter less. Florida vs. Bama on the other hand…

For Florida to make the jump, they would need at least 3 or 4 other SEC or southern ACC schools to jump with them just to keep their costs down, and boost their ticket sales a little. What schools would make the jump with Florida?

Georgia? Auburn? Tennessee? South Carolina? Miami? I don’t think lacrosse is big enough at those schools, or in some of those states for that matter, to merit a reason to make the move and sustain even more $1+ million losses. Refer back to UConn’s picture of High Schools that have lacrosse for a reference.

Areas where High School lacrosse exists

In summary, while I do think that reforming Title IX somehow would help lacrosse’s expansion into big football schools, I don’t know of any fair ways to reform it. Beyond that, I don’t think reforming it is the solution. Suppose it was reformed tomorrow. Do you really think lacrosse programs would spring up the next day? Hell no.

The real solution? The sport needs to grow. Give back to the game you love. Spread the sport. There needs to be a lot more red dots on that map before dreams can come true.

In Other News

Incredible sports photography from Barry Spears. Louisiana lax is beautiful. Quarter-Finals: Brother Martin vs Catholic Semi-Finals: St. Thomas More vs Brother Martin

What’s really remarkable is how well Jesuit of New Orleans did this season considering their head coach, Mike Brantley, was deployed to Haiti with 24 hours notice. He missed half of the season. You can find the video of their work here. NOTE: there might be some graphic visions in the video.

Ronnie James Dio – Rest In Peace \m/


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About the author: Knox is a 24 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.

Questions? Want to contribute to the Lax All Stars Network? Hit us up at info@lacrosseallstars.com

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