Hot Pot: College Lacrosse In… January?


I grew up during the years where turf was still pretty rare. Indoor stadiums were few and far between, and college lacrosse games didn’t start until March. Oh, and all the teams were located up North where it was snowy, cold, and awful outside. This was a bizarre world known as… 11 years ago.

Connor Wilson Wesleyan Lacrosse

I know… I’m old and grumpy, but what gives with all this February college lacrosse?

If the powers that be want to schedule games in February, I can’t stop them. Obviously. I have no power! And I even see the positive side to the idea in that it allows programs to get more games in, and against a more diverse set of opponents. Teams can travel South for a weekend, and newer programs like Mercer can host big games with their better weather and new facilities. But does it really have to go down during the first weekend of February?

The last weekend? Sure. But this Feb 1 stuff is really pushing it.

NCAA Men's Lacrosse 2013 - Army at UMass

Photo Credit: Tommy Gilligan February 10th, 2013

Now, I’m definitely biased when it comes to delaying the season, and my college experience in the NESCAC is probably a big part of that. We couldn’t even start practice until February 15th. Did that hurt the conference? Well, it’s the only D3 conference to produce two national champs (Tufts and Middlebury), so no, it did not. The Ivy League also restricts play, and those teams tend to do ok.

My argument will be discounted by some using the fact that both the Ivy and NESCAC represent some of the top academic schools in the country and therefore can theoretically get better athletes to come, which in turn gives them an advantage and makes them an outlier. But I don’t buy it. It just shows that practice time and early start dates aren’t required for success in May. Schools like Duke show that extra practice time (and a great academic reputation) doesn’t hurt either, but when I look at a program like Cornell or Tufts, I see that governing season start times doesn’t kill a program. It’s feasible.

So all I’m proposing is that we keep lacrosse a Spring sport. You want to play games in late February? Go for it. To people in many parts of the country that can be Spring. But any earlier and you’re seriously infringing on the distinct territory of Winter, and while a snow game or two can be fun, a month of them is brutal, and I’m not just talking about all the broken sticks.

Those are some SERIOUS snow banks!
Those are some SERIOUS snow banks!

Fans stay home, injuries can occur due to a lack of practice, and the grind of the season can seem to go on forever. Can you imagine playing a game and then scrimmaging another team that just started up the next week? What about scrimmaging a team that is already 3-0? That is bizarre, quickly becoming possible, and not needed.

Here is a question no one seems to be asking (maybe “they” are): If the season MUST be extended, why are we pushing into Winter so hard? Why don’t we move the Championships back like college baseball? Those guys are playing their pastime well into August it seems. I’ll take lacrosse in June over lacrosse in February (or gasp, January!) any day of the week. ANY DAY!

If there is a college game on TV, I’ll likely watch it, even if it’s in early February. I’m as bad as the next person. But I’m a greedy consumer. What do you expect? The governing body needs to govern here (unless they don’t care), and that could mean either the NCAA or the IMLCA stepping in. Will that happen? Maybe. The IMLCA doesn’t tend to propose and then follow through on sweeping changes, and the NCAA is probably not concerned much as lacrosse is a non-revenue sport.

So what’s going to happen?

We’ll see more games in February, someone will play in January in 2015, and I’ll watch whatever is on TV. I’ll also complain a lot. Definitely that last one. Beyond that, probably not much.


  1. I agree completely! It is ridiculous to start this early. I’d much rather see championship weekend pushed back to mid or end June, when it is still SPRING TIME! It is WINTER now in January and February! Lacrosse is a spring sport, so why shouldn’t we play it in the SPRING! I am in Connecticut and our high school team starts practice on March 24th this year. That is the latest we have ever started. Our season spans from the end of March to the middle of June, who says the NCAA should’t do it like the high school teams? There would be no way we could start now with 14 inches of snow on the ground! And not to mention we still have a grass field!

  2. My D3 team in Maine started the 29th of January and our first game is on the 1st of March so I lucked out a little bit. But most if not all of our practices will be inside the field house and not outside at all since we’re still waiting for the field to get plowed off. Ever since I started playing in college it seems like there’s only 2 weeks of nice weather at the tail end of the season then it’s over. Moving into more of a high school based schedule would be great for both players and fans alike. I don’t see a change coming anytime soon but it would be most welcome.

  3. I completely agree, I don’t have to deal with snow here in NC like I did in Michigan but we do have cold weather. We practice year round and I always feel our more productive practices are when its warmest. Our full pad practice starts in 8 days and our first game is March 7th when we host King of Spring so it’ll still be fairly cold, even up to our first game. I feel for college teams, it wasn’t freezing yesterday for the game at Duke, but the day before was horrible and I can imagine it wasn’t a great practice. Though it is fortunate we never really have to plow like you guys do.

  4. I played High School up in the Upper Peninsula in Michigan so we didn’t even start going outside till around halfway through March. And even then the field was still soaked from the snow melting and it was freezing. Now that I’m in college we’ve been practicing since around the first week of February, but inside. We’ve got our first game on March 1st and its outside so hopefully this Michigan weather doesn’t act up. I’d love to start later and go in June. It would be a lot nicer then starting early and having to deal with the crappy weather.