Utah State: 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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Lacrosse All Stars

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