College

Houghton Twins Transfer From NCAA D1 To MCLA D1

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Jared Houghton in a scrum - photo courtesy of Lax.com

The MCLA has made some big strides over the past 10 years.  In the last two to three years, the league has really stepped its game up and the playing field has been trending towards more equality between the two collegiate athletic associations.  The gap used to be really wide but I, for one, see that gap diminishing to a greater extent than was believed possible in the past.

For a little anecdotal evidence, one need look no further than the recent transfer news surrounding Denver and BYU. The Houghton twins are leaving Denver for MCLA powerhouse BYU and seem pretty darn happy about it.  They played for the Pioneers in 2007, took a 2 year leave to go on a Mormon church mission to Argentina and are now back stateside ready to lax it up again.  As freshmen, Jacob Houghton played in 15 games notching 2 assists for the Pioneers in 2007, while Jared played in 11 games and notched a goal and a bunch of ground balls.  Anytime a freshman sees the field for a division one team, you know they have a lot of potential but when they play in double digit games, they are usually something special.  The Houghtons are both 6’3″ and over 210 lbs… and they play midfield.

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Jacob Houghton plays some D against Ohio State - photo courtesy of Lax.com

Are they transferring to BYU for reasons other than just lacrosse?  It sure seems that way but looking deeper, what exactly does that mean?  In my opinion, we can draw two major conclusions from this:

1) MCLA lacrosse is not a huge step down from Div1 lacrosse anymore.  There are certainly still some pretty big differences between the two, and Div 1 lacrosse is definitely of a higher quality but a huge gap no longer exists.  The Houghtons seem very excited to play there and recognize that the level of play is excellent and up to their standards.  By virtue of playing in the MCLA the Houghtons will also lend more credibility to the League.  And with top notch, blue chip players in the MCLA (who also played in the NCAA with success), it gets much harder for the extremist NCAA folks to just dismiss the league as club ball and nothing more.

2)  MCLA schools offer things that NCAA schools don’t.  There isn’t a college in the US with as strong a Mormom presence as BYU.  That is a HUGE draw for the school.  There are a lot of other schools out there that have an MCLA team that also offer some things not many other schools in the US can offer, like Pepperdine’s amazing California ocean front campus… or Michigan’s history-rich tradition… or the Colorado School of Mines’ specialty programs… or Tulane because it is in New Orleans… or SCAD’s art programs… you get the picture.   As lacrosse diversifies and expands, kids who might not be your prototypical laxers will pick up a spoon and start playing.  Some of them will be very good but won’t be interested in Div 1 schools that offer lacrosse and they will play in the MCLA.  This will not happen overnight and as more and more NCAA schools pick up the sport, the effects will be felt less but the level of play will continue to improve, maybe even to the point where the differences are so small, no one will really notice.  Although I think these days are still far off, I can see them coming and since it means lacrosse will only expand and improve, I must say I’m excited!

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Connor Wilson

Connor is the Publisher of LacrosseAllStars.com. He lives in Brooklyn with his better half, continues to play and coach both box and field lacrosse in NYC as much as possible, and covers the great game that is lacrosse full-time. He spends his spare time stringing sticks and watching Futurama.

14 Comments

  • I agree that the transfer of the Houghtons is great for BYU but it is an anomaly in the lacrosse landscape.

    To draw the following conclusion, “MCLA lacrosse is not a huge step down from Div1 lacrosse anymore. There are certainly still some pretty big differences between the two, and Div 1 lacrosse is definitely of a higher quality but a huge gap no longer exists” because two return missionaries (who are very good lacrosse players) transfer to BYU is a stretch.

    BYU lacrosse has a history of players who played D1 (ex. Harvard among other schools) who transfer back after their missions. I do agree with your second conclusion that BYU offers something that no other school in the country offers. And that bodes well for their ability to attract Mormon lacrosse players.

    I think that the level of MCLA lacrosse will continue to improve but the biggest factor will be the financial benefits of attending in-state universities. As long as private college tuition continues to increase at current rates, families (especially in untraditional lacrosse regions) will consider sending their children to large state universities that tend to offer MCLA lacrosse.

  • fantastic comment and great insight. much appreciated!

    Is it a HUGE stretch to say the Houghtons bring legitimacy to the MCLA? Of course it is: The MCLA had legitimacy before the twins transferred! haha.

    The point is that more kids who could play D1 are choosing to play MCLA lacrosse whereas I don't think we were seeing that as often in the past. BYU is a very specific and specialized university but I think it illustrates the point well that you also made… kids see the MCLA as a good enough league as long as the school has all the right attributes.

    I don't think the MCLA will ever suplant the NCAA or even be a truly comparable league in terms of quality but it is getting a lot better every year and that is good for everyone!

  • Alright, reality check for a second

    I know you probably wrote this being very excited about hearing the news of these two d1 players going club, but lets be real. the MCLA will never draw the TOP talent that NCAA does because, in the NCAA, you compete for a national championship that is much more meaningful the the MCLA national championship (i dont mean to take anything away from winning the natty c at the club level but thats just the reality of the situation). the type of people i do think the MCLA will start to pick away is the kids who are deciding between a lowly d1 or outside top 20 d3 team. This is because if they go MCLA, chances are they can play on a top MCLA team and compete for the MCLA national championship. my two cents, and keeping the boring education argument out of it.

  • I don't think I was ever pushing the argument that the MCLA will draw the TOP talent out there… by and large, those guys go to college to play lax and win an NCAA NC, for sure. I was just saying that the HUGE gap that used to exist is now just a sizable gap and that the MCLA talent level pool is increasing almost every year.

    The education argument may be boring to you, but in the end it is the single most important aspect of going to college… so I'm going to keep talking about it! I would hate for lacrosse to become a college sport like football or basketball where kids who have almost NO business going to college get to go by virtue of being a blue chipper. IMO, that is probably the biggest problem facing the NCAA today yet very few people talk about it much.

  • I agree with you, education is the most important part of college. But I wanted to just look at this comparision from a lacrosse standpoint, only because it is impossible to judge every college from an education standpoint- whether it be NCAA or MCLA – every college/university offers unique qualities that others dont, so that arguement can be spun in circles over and over again. “boring” probably wasnt the best word.

  • that is more than fair to say we should only look at it from a lacrosse standpoint but the arguments will only work in a hypothetical sense. When reality comes into play, the decisions get murkier and I think THAT is where the MCLA can really benefit. Finding those super talented and athletic kids who aren't looking to play at an NCAA school will be tough but in terms of talent, it is the best option for the MCLA teams at this point, IMHO. That and in-state kids who simply can't afford to go to any school. In NC, PA, MA, MD, etc they would be just fine at any of those large state colleges but in UT, FL, CA, etc… those choices aren't as easy. Until Cali gets a state school with an NCAA Div 1 team, I think the MCLA teams will continue to benefit and improve with the chance of becoming real “programs” where kids get fed to the better teams year after year. An interesting debate any way you look at it!
    I really appreciate your thoughts on this… keep em coming because interaction and discussion are the best ways to truly understand something… and I like learning!

  • Before comparing the MCLA to NCAA Div 1 the club folks may want to start trying to be at the level of top Div 3 teams which they certainly are not. Case in point – Chapman (2nd ranked MCLA team on laxpower) battled with Whittier (46th ranked team on laxpower). The best club teams are clearly not even top 20 D3 caliber let alone warranting comparison to Div 1 NCAA lacrosse. MCLA offers a great opportunity to play lacrosse beyond high school but lets be realistic as to where they stand on the talent food chain.

  • Oh. Solid win for BYU vs Air Force in a scrimmage a week before the season starts. So now we know that BYU can play their starters (with a massive chip on their shoulder after having played multiple regular season games) against a liberally substituting (with little care of winning or losing a preseason scrimmage) lower level D1 team and eek out a win. You're right, this article was totally warranted. My bad.

  • It was completely warranted, and the writer makes some good points. The fact that BYU beat Air Force in fall ball is impressive, and clear sign that the talent level in the MCLA continues to rise.

  • Not saying there weren't some good points (particularly section #2) but hanging the proverbial club hat on a win in reversibles is grossly premature. NCAA folks tend to lose respect for the MCLA when their supporters make outrageous claims like “the MCLA is not a huge step down from NCAA division 1.” You could sub NCAA division 2 or 3 into that statement (outside of the top 10) if the goal is to make a rationale claim. I'd love any knowledgeable member of the lacrosse community to watch the MCLA championship game followed by an NCAA division 1 game and tell me that the level of play, skill and athleticism isn't night and day. If they can, we'll repeat the experiment with some sodium pentathol. Cool?

  • Haha, sodium pentathol, love it! I think we're both on the same page here. The BYU/Air Force thing happened and that does show promise for the MCLA. But it also doesn't mean the MCLA has reached equality – it's just moving in the right direction. In fact, it has a long long way to go if you look at the league as a whole – there are 213 teams.

    An interesting aspect of this discussion is that as top MCLA teams get better, they will reel in more top talent – especially from the west coast – because of other factors. Specifically, size and location of school. I have a feeling teams like Chapman in Cali could knab some big recruits, especially if the team gains more school and alumni support. Eventually we may see quite a few more MCLA vs. NCAA matchups.

  • I think the quote you pulled out DOES look bad if you only read the portion that you chose to highlight in your comment. If you read the entire opener, “1) MCLA lacrosse is not a huge step down from Div1 lacrosse anymore. There are certainly still some pretty big differences between the two, and Div 1 lacrosse is definitely of a higher quality but a huge gap no longer exists.” you can see that I am not saying there isn't a gap or that the gap isn't still quite large and easily noticeable. What I am saying is that the gap is lessening even if only slightly. Personally, I think this is a GREAT thing for lacrosse in general and I am a hardcore east cost hot bed NCAA grad. I watched the MCLA finals last year on tv [and the semis and other rounds before that online] and while I agree the difference is DEFINITELY noticeable… it isn't as big as it used to be.
    Chapman also played some competitive scrimmages with Ithaca and the Whittier game is a definite rivalry game so… they seem pretty competitive but I also agree there are still some really big differences…

  • I think the quote you pulled out DOES look bad if you only read the portion that you chose to highlight in your comment. If you read the entire opener, “1) MCLA lacrosse is not a huge step down from Div1 lacrosse anymore. There are certainly still some pretty big differences between the two, and Div 1 lacrosse is definitely of a higher quality but a huge gap no longer exists.” you can see that I am not saying there isn't a gap or that the gap isn't still quite large and easily noticeable. What I am saying is that the gap is lessening even if only slightly. Personally, I think this is a GREAT thing for lacrosse in general and I am a hardcore east cost hot bed NCAA grad. I watched the MCLA finals last year on tv [and the semis and other rounds before that online] and while I agree the difference is DEFINITELY noticeable… it isn't as big as it used to be.
    Chapman also played some competitive scrimmages with Ithaca and the Whittier game is a definite rivalry game so… they seem pretty competitive but I also agree there are still some really big differences…

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