Unforgivable Hubris: Stop “Growing” And Start Growing

I want you to consider a notion that may seem counter intuitive. Depending on your situation, you may really hate this statement. Ready? Ok, here we go.

The “growth” of lacrosse is holding back the sport.

What? Right now you’re most likely confused or angry.  Before you start praying to Rabil to smite me with lightning from heaven, let me refine and elaborate.

What I really mean is that I’m beginning to think that lacrosse at the collegiate club level has begun, or perhaps began some time ago, to grow fatter faster than it grows tall. For every new club that sprouts up to struggle along at the bottom of its conference, the already-established teams suffer by division of talent and dilution of competition.

I’ll use the state of Utah to explain what I mean. Brigham Young University is clearly the collegiate powerhouse of the state and it’s not really even close.

But why?

Salt Lake has long been a western lacrosse Mecca at the high school level, and surely BYU doesn’t appeal to every kid coming out of the area. Yet the University of Utah Utes (institutional alliteration) doesn’t seem to be catching up. Case in point:

2010:  BYU 17 – Utah 7

2009:  BYU 14 – Utah 5

2008:  BYU 11 – Utah 3

The Utes have long been a very respectable program in the RMLC and are a perennial top-25 team. But it seems they’re spinning their gears when it comes to closing the gap to their Mormon big brothers.

I blame Utah State and Utah Valley State.

Think of this in terms of demographics. By my count, the state of Utah has five collegiate programs: BYU, Utah, and Utah State in D1; Utah Valley State and Westminster in D2. Now break those programs down by demographic appeal to recruits:

What’s the significance? Well we have three schools (Utah, USU, UVSU) splitting up the talent that’s left after BYU takes a good deal of the LDS kids and Westminster takes the rich ones.

(I’m aware that they are generalizations, but for every exception you throw my way I’ll throw you ten that prove my point).

Take a moment and step with me into the realm of the hypothetical. Utah State has long dwelled in the basement of the RMLC, but just like every such program – they almost certainly have 1-4 studs would could make an impact at a higher level program.

Utah Valley is a prominent D2 program that certainly has a number of players who could do quite well elsewhere (not necessarily saying they should in the case of UVU, just that they could). Now, what would happen if Utah State and Utah Valley’s lacrosse programs didn’t exist?

What if those 10 impact players had been forced to choose to attend Utah if they wanted to play collegiate lacrosse for a state university? How much better would Utah become over time if their demographic talent pool wasn’t being split and sent to the different corners of the state? I don’t know.  But maybe enough to start challenging BYU for top dog of the Beehive State (er… “queen bee?”).

Some of you are probably objecting on the grounds that I’ve hypothetically sent all these kids to Utah instead of Utah State.  Well here’s my deal:  Utah State will NEVER challenge for the RMLC title.  It ain’t happening.  Ever.  The potential simply does not exist. Deal with it.  Utah, on the other hand, has the potential to climb to that level.

So let’s take this concept on the road. Does nearby Idaho really need three programs? Drive north. Does Washington state need seven? (Rumor is that two more teams, Seattle U. and U. Pacific, are firing up the gears of war and intend on applying in the next couple of years).

What if that in-state talent was all being focused into one or two programs? You get the idea so I’m not going to cover every state in the Union.

Wouldn’t MCLA lacrosse on the whole improve if good players were kept together, improving themselves and each other? Wouldn’t parity drive competition to a new level? I think it just might.

No, I’m not suggesting kicking anyone out of the MCLA. What’s done is done and lots of hard work has been done to create and drive every club in our association. So I guess what I’m saying is that conferences really need to think about whether new applicant teams would be good for the conference, good for the MCLA, and good for lacrosse.

And maybe we shouldn’t even consider readmitting any team that folds, drops out, and later reapplies. Maybe it’s time to start growing up instead of out.

Actually, screw “maybe”.

Disagree with me? Would you like to write me a profanity-laced tirade about how this is America dammit and America is about freedom and freedom means going to school wherever you want and playing collegiate lacrosse too?

Enjoy both having your cake and eating it to?

Tell me about it in the comment section.


About the author: Since Ghost of the Union ran out of eligibility, he spends his summers drinking and playing for Scallywag Lax and spends the rest of his time thinking about things that annoy him complaining about them on the internet. You shouldn’t encourage him.

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  • America is about freedom and freedom means going to school wherever you want and playing collegiate lacrosse too. I proudly made my college decision on non-lacrosse grounds, and I earned all conference on a 1-10 team. Does any MCLA team outside of the top ten even actually recruit? Oregon, ASU, Colorado, UCSB, Cal, FSU, and other similar big schools get recruits because their recruits probably planned to go there since age 12. Most of those teams cut a lot of players too. Why don't those players transfer to other programs? Oh, because they didn't decide to matriculate to a college based on its lacrosse program alone.

    If anything, Title IX is slowing NCAA lacrosse growth and I personally think the days of $2000 dues should be numbered. As someone who filled out a FAFSA, I think it's weird that people spend that much on lacrosse every year. Do they know how much college loans suck? Virtual varsity has make-believe in the title. I can't think of a single MCLA program transitioning to DI lacrosse, but that should be the goal, even if it is farfetched. You criticize the University of Utah for not measuring up to BYU, while they still posted a 10-4 record, which is a healthy winning percentage. “Growing up” isn't called club lacrosse and if the awkward financial gap building between lacrosse and other club sports that aren't anywhere near as expensive keeps growing, we're only going to see more top coaches get mysteriously fired.

    412 pointed out this week that MCLA figureheads are free to do and say what they want to, and I think that programs with administrative power, a good alumni base for fundraising, and a no-nonsense appeal to recruits in the MCLA like to complain about other programs keeping them down. Sure, concentrating the limited lacrosse resources of the American West into a few great programs would be fun for a few coaches, but I don't think it would benefit very many players.

  • COMMENT FROM JEFF SOBEY (via Facebook):

    Great conversation. One that may, as Shrek says, be like an onion; layered.

    The initial thought I have is your premise seems to be, for the most part, based on the assumption that lax is a primary reason a student chooses a school.

    I'll take my state, Oregon, for my response. You say that the talent is being split up by the smaller schools, let's … See Moretake Willamette and U of O only here to make my point simple.

    U of O has a great law program, but Willamette is quite a bit better. (Ducks, save the hate; I am just trying to make a point here). Our fictitious student, Earl, has aimed to be a judge, perhaps a senator someday. He also happened to lead his high school to two straight championships, commonly thought of as one of the top two goalies in the state, and would love to continue to play in college.

    Willamette's program is not threatening to go to Denver anytime soon, but they are a decent D2 program. U of O is a D1 threat year in and year out. Earl knows he will not be the third MLL player drafted from MCLA, but does believe in his dream to sit on a Federal Bench.
    What would you advise Earl to do?

    I contend the schools that can support a program should be supported by the lax community. Perhaps there needs to be additional levels added.

    Until scholarships are given here on the left coast, let the clubs live and give the kids a chance to play.

    Think of the possibilities. Some kid who played for Western Washington University may just start a youth program somewhere in a town he settled down in that had no program.
    The game grows, and it's beautiful.

  • In your case against Utah Valley University…I think lacrosse had little to do with their choice to attend UVU. I'm Mormon so I'm not saying this out of complete ignorance, but id think location of the school as well as the low cost of tuition influenced most of their decision. The fact that they had lacrosse might have been merely a bonus. Look at the demographic appeal for a Mormon there… Despite what MCLA says UVUs enrollment is, I was told by a councilor there that it was upwards of 35,000 now and the 2nd most enrolled school in the state, behind U of U. Down the road, less than 10 miles actually, is BYU. Enrollment there is in the 30,000s as well. Have you been to Provo/Orem? It’s infested with college students. Within a 10 mile radius there are 60,000 some college students. That appeals to me. Now, UVU is breaking away from the image that it once used to be the school where all the Mormons that weren’t intelligent enough to go to BYU go. But I'd say it’s still a true stereotype.

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