Grand Canyon University Goes D1 Without Lacrosse – Is This A Good Thing?

Las Vegas Lacrosse Showcase - Utah vs. Grand Canyon 1
Beautiful day for some lax

Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, AZ is officially making the move from NCAA D2 to NCAA D1. GCU used to have an NCAA lacrosse program, but dropped the team as they did not think this was a viable option for them, if the D1 move was successful. Now that the move has been, it doesn’t seem like GCU has changed their stance on lacrosse, but according to a recent article on Deadspin, perhaps that’s actually a good thing.

The Deadspin article basically paints Grand Canyon as a purely for-profit institution that has little regard for academics. As a prime example of this, they lay out the 2008 complaint filed against GCU by the federal government and a former employee, which alleges fraud and illegal incentives for enrolling student programs, amongst other violations.

Also of interest should also be the following quote from GCU Athletic Direcotr, Keith Baker, in a 2011 article in Lacrosse Magazine by Jac Coyne:

“There is just really nothing out west in the Division I market besides the University of Denver and the Air Force Academy, so there was a really depleted field of competition for us,” said Baker. “The idea is if we somehow obtain Division I membership, there is not a niche for us out here to have a good level of rivalry or scheduling.”

In addition, with the capped number of scholarships available to male athletes in NCAA Division II — a number that the Grand Canyon athletic department has already reached — even if the university stayed in its current division, it would not be able to fully fund the lacrosse program from this point forward.

The idea was if we’re utilizing athletics as more of a marketing tool to show off our success, why are we offering programs we can’t fully fund? Let’s just [end the program] now and move on,” said Baker.

The bolded emphasis is mine. But it does lead me to think that maybe, just maybe, it is more about the money at GCU than most places… but is the school really as much of a sham as Deadpsin says?

Now, all we see in the Deadspin article is the complaint, and a mention that GCU had to pay $5.2 Million to a former employee and the feds, in order to settle, and a mention that graduation rates are around 25%. While this is not a complete indictment of the school, it does bring up these really interesting questions:

Is an “at-all-costs” approach to the growth of lacrosse at the college level something to pursue?

Or is being more exclusive a more prudent way to go?

Is there anything that could, or even should, be done to keep certain schools out?

Or does that run totally counter to the larger lacrosse culture?

I’m not sure that lacrosse has any right to limit who joins the game. If the sport continues to be an NCAA sport, and we continue to remain under the NCAA umbrella, I don’t think we even have any choice in the matter. Even if lacrosse left the NCAA and became its own association, I doubt the sport could pick and choose who played it. That would only lead to further divisiveness.

As more for-profit college and universities begin to gain prominence, this issue will become very real. But now that it’s still in its hypothetical stages, I’m interested to hear what you think.

Where do “non-traditional” colleges and universities fit in on the NCAA landscape?