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Niche Sports And Life On The Fringe?

Like many other people passionate about the growth of lacrosse, I’m axiously waiting for the next school to make the jump and add a Men’s Lacrosse program on the NCAA level.  The widespread growth of lacrosse up and down the West has become prime recruiting grounds for top East Coast lacrosse programs.  The National Championship between Syracuse and Cornell was no different (2 players on Syracuse and 5 on Cornell played HS lacrosse on the West Coast).

Because of the current recession we’re seeing cuts for athletics on every level and for colleges around the country that translates to less funding for non-revenue generating sports, or niche sports.  Like swimming, wrestling, and tennis, lacrosse programs are facing this grim reality every day.  While the plan has always been for continued grassroots growth on the high school and club level to spearhead the growth of sanctioned NCAA programs, the recession has changed the game on many levels.  Instead of rising higher, the tide is receeding on NCAA lacrosse out west.

BYU’s anticipated jump from MCLA to D1 is a fading memory and rumored reports of lacrosse cuts at Nortre Dame de Namur (NCAA DII, San Francisco) are just two signs of this tigtening financial belt.  On a much broader level, a recent article on by Dana O’Neil illustrates the emotional toll this is taking on athletes of a variety of sports.

“The headlines are routine now — a baseball team cut, a track program drastically reduced — all black-ink proof that not even the perceived purity of opportunity personified in college athletics is immune to this country’s financial pinch.

Like the news of any big business searching for ways to trim the fat, the headlines don’t always tell the whole story.

There are more than revenue and expense lines being balanced with these red-pen decisions. There are people, kids really, whose college experiences are being rewritten or ruined altogether to pinch a penny. They are the faceless collateral damage, the athletes who usually compete far from the bright television lights and adoration of the masses. They are in school because a long time ago they fell in love with a sport and they viewed college as a way to extend that love affair.

And now they’ve been unceremoniously dumped, eliminated by administrators who promise they’ve agonized over their choices.

No doubt they have.

And no doubt they haven’t agonized nearly as much as the athletes who have been left to pick up the pieces…

The full article is a must read for anyone passionate about college athletics.

Athletes the real collateral damage [ESPNU]