Every fire needs a spark, and in my post, College Box Lacrosse: Where You At?, I failed to provide one. I laid out all the reasons for college box, but I never came up with a real way for it to start. The answer was right under my nose the whole time. Thankfully, SwankLax didn’t miss what I had when he commented on the post:
… Ironically, the one league where this might work would be the NESCAC. Assuming the financial hurdle could be overcome (and that’s a significant if), then box lax could conceivably be a fall sport and use the preexisting hockey rinks. There’s no conflict with fall ball because fall ball is against the rules, and the benefit of playing box together would far outweigh the limited benefit of captain’s practice in the fall.
It was so obvious, and I missed it! Oh well, it happens. But thanks to Swank for the note. It got my mind spinning again.
There is no reason that some of the NESCAC schools couldn’t start playing box lacrosse almost immediately. Fall of 2012. It could happen by then. Maybe not as an official intercollegiate sport at first, but some schools could conceivably play, and things could grow quickly from there.
When I was at Wesleyan the rink didn’t have ice on it during the Summer and Fall. And I’m pretty sure it was gone by Homecoming most years as well. If this still holds true at only one or two other NESCAC schools, we could be in luck here! NESCAC rules forbid out of season practice, so fall ball isn’t an issue for lacrosse. But this also means that hockey teams don’t play in the fall, so a lot of these rinks are pretty open for other uses. Some schools may keep ice on their rinks all year round, but we’ll get to how that could change later.
Like I said, it would only take 2 or 3 teams at different schools to get this going in some fashion, and there are a couple of obvious alignments that could work really well in the first year. The first has to do with the Little Three; Wesleyan, Williams and Amherst. It’s the oldest three way rivalry in the country and these three schools should never pass up the chance to play each other in anything. If these three can get together to play Quidditch, the can get together to play box lacrosse. Both Thompson (Amherst) and Raba (my coach at Wesleyan) are creative enough to support something like this, and Coach McCormick at Williams could probably be convinced to go along with it. Add in that all three of these schools love their lacrosse teams, and you’ve got a recipe for success.
The first of the other two alignments that come to mind immediately are Bowdoin, Colby and Bates Colleges because there is a good Maine rivalry there, and because all 3 of these teams could use a spark to make things happen again. Bowdoin’s McCabe is on his way out at Bowdoin, but maybe he’d learn the box game and coach a club team? He certainly seems to love Brunswick, ME! Lasagna at Bates is a creative guy too, and I can see him loving the extra time with his players. The second other alignment would be Wesleyan, Trinity and Conn College, because they are all nestled relatively close together in CT. Travel costs would be limited to gas money, overnights would never be required, and all of these schools could use some help in catching back up with Tufts right now.
Assuming one of my three proposed NESCAC box lacrosse alignments could get off the ground, further growth could be a little slow, but it would all depend on how quickly the pudding set. If the schools that started playing box lacrosse in the fall continued on their current trajectories, it could be a long while before another school picked up boxla. But if the teams that played box saw instant success, you can bet the other NESCACs would be scrambling to do the same. Add on to the fact that it doesn’t make for a bad recruiting tool and it’s a winning idea.
And you know what? Box Lacrosse could be popular at NESCAC schools. It really could. Hockey games are great at a lot of NESCACs, and so are lacrosse games. There is no reason to think that these same kids would come out in droves for box lacrosse. I knew people who saw their first lacrosse game ever at Wesleyan, and became fans of the sport. Now imagine if we could introduce them to both versions of the game! It’s all within our grasp.
Outside of the NESCAC, other schools could be slow to adopt this approach. First, they are constrained by not having facilities ready for box lacrosse. Second, they are allowed to play fall ball. So how could box lacrosse make the jump to the next level? I think it comes down to one of two ways. The first is that the NESCAC schools would be successful and others would then be forced to do the same to keep an even playing field. The second is that the Ivy League would pick up the practice, as their fall is heavily restricted.
The Ivy teams are allowed 12 or 14 days of practice each fall, an event and then individual and small group session time with coaches. Or something like that. The point is, they don’t have a free-for-all, lax all the time fall schedule, so box could work there. Facilities could be an issue, but let’s face it, those schools have the budgets to get it done if they want to. By offering box lacrosse as a fall sport, these Ivy Leaguers would graduate as 8x varsity athletes, and that looks good on a resume. It also gives the Ivy’s a good head start on becoming the top teams, should the NCAA ever decided to sponsor the sport. And we all know how much Ivy’s love to win National Championships… a lot!
From there it would simply have to benefit the Ivy League schools enough to get other schools on board. Guys who didn’t want to play box could still play fall ball together, and this is true at every school. Numbers might be down a good bit, but that just means more reps for guys who need them. All in all, it’s not a bad thing and only provides more opportunity.
It’s a totally “out there” idea. I know. It’s unproven, has some major holes (Title IX, costs, etc), and is easy to disregard for those very reasons, but the impossible path sometimes leads to the greatest rewards. Is collegiate box lacrosse on that level?