In addition to the Face Off Classic and the Big City Classic, IL will now be promoting and hosting the Mile High Classic each year. Everything is an instant Classic! This newest event will be held out in Denver (IL’s top lax town in 2010) each year and in 2012 the event will feature 4 Division 1 Men’s teams. This year it will be Denver – Duke and Virginia – Penn. The games will be held on at night April 27th, which is a Friday. Usually, IL’s events start during the day and occur early in the season, so this is definitely a slight change of pace for them.
Hosting a big event at the end of the season can be risky because some teams may not live up to the hype they possessed when scheduling took place. But if that’s the biggest risk IL is taking with this new event, I think it’s safe to say it will go off without a hitch. Denver is the local powerhouse, so they were a must, Duke is as well-known as they come, UVA just won the NC, and Penn is supposed to be good again in 2012. It’s a solid line up of D1 games and I think it’s going to be highly successful, well-attended, and will probably be a long-running yearly event.
Now, while I do think the event has a lot of potential, I also think that IL missed the mark a little bit with their team selections. I get that IL has done a number of other events with the best of the best D1 teams, that this approach is proven, and that this approach certainly has a draw for people in the lacrosse community. And like I said above, I KNOW that this event will be successful, and that the teams listed will draw in the fans. But that doesn’t always mean the job is done.
I know that Denver is “the” team out West. I’m as guilty as anyone of promoting that theory. But that doesn’t mean we should forget about the Air Force Academy, which is located in-state as well, in Colorado Springs. They are a D1 team, and a service academy, so having an event like this, in their backyard, without them seems more than just a little weird. Maybe IL invited them and the AFA just couldn’t make it? Possible.
Either way, I’d love to see the AFA in this event in 2013. The lacrosse community talks about Army and Navy lax a lot, which is fair because they have so much history with the sport, but we should also pay special attention to the AFA laxers as well. In the end, ALL these guys serve our country, so they deserve our support. And inviting them high profile events in their direct vicinity is an easy start. Even if they aren’t the best team on the planet right now. Maybe playing in an event would help them improve? GTG, right?
For now I’ll just stick to the assumption I created out of thin air that Air Force couldn’t make it, but that they’ll be there next year.
In the meantime, I REALLY would have liked IL to have invited at least two teams from outside of the D1 ranks. Back East, it’s easy to pick a bunch of top D1 squads to come play a game, and the people will turn out in droves. Not only will general lacrosse fans go, but die-hard team specific fans will go, and this “local element” makes each event truly unique and inspired. For the Denver event, there are just SO many non-D1 lax teams in the immediate area… IL should have invited at least two of them!
They could have had a Colorado based NCAA DII team play Colorado College (NCAA DIII) in a “Battle of the Divisions” game, they could have had two of the top Western NCAA DII teams play a game, OR they could have invited Colorado’s MCLA team to play Colorado State’s MCLA team. That would have been unreal!
I know D1 lacrosse is a bigger draw than anything else. And I know that bringing teams out there to play can be expensive. But, for the most part, the growth of lacrosse out in Colorado, and in the West in general, has NOT been at the D1 level. It’s been at the Club level. It’s been at the DII level. And yet somehow, now that lax is booming, these early originators have been left in the lurch and relegated to fan status only. If the Mile High Classic featured 3 games with D1 teams, I wouldn’t be writing this. My reasoning is that 3 games of D1 lax is more than enough for anyone in one day. But two games, one being played at 5:30, and one at 8pm, leaves a LOT of room for inviting some smaller local teams and putting them on the big stage.
One could argue that since the games are on a Friday, it would not be feasible to have an earlier game. But if you have a game at 530 and 8, you could also have a game at 3pm. And I remember playing college lacrosse games that early almost every week during my 4 years. So yes, it’s totally doable.
Thankfully, it’s still really early in the year, so IL could conceivably add another D1 game, OR they could add a MCLA or NCAA DII game that features a lot of local talent. It’s a little more risky I guess, and it isn’t 100% high profile, but at the end of the day, that’s what Growing The Game is all about. I guess they could even add a High School game on to the slate for the day. That wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. And they’ve done it before when St. Andrew’s (FL) flew up to NJ to play in the Big City Classic so they could wear Easton’s new helmets on a big stage. If SAS is willing to fly to Jersey, you can get two local HS teams!
I salute IL for bringing their stable of events out to Colorado, and for taking the risk of promoting end of season games this early in the year, but I just hope that as they retool the event next year (or possibly this year!) they try to bring a little more local flavor in for the early game. The big regular events are great, but when you go to a high-growth area I don’t think importing talent is the only way to go, especially not when it’s in the City you recently selected as the Top Lax Town. Give the local college teams some love!!!!!