We will have 76 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse programs next season with the addition of Lindenwood University and Queens University. Both schools were at the Division 2 level and will make the jump to Division 1 beginning next season.
My editor asked me a simple question, who’s next? Over the next two weeks, I am going to provide you with potential candidates. This week, I will focus on the big brands. Large universities, located in strong population centers and markets that would help to expand our sport. Next week, I will focus on schools at the D2 and D3 levels. Let’s start by looking at two schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC had a forgetful year in 2022. Despite having the back-to-back national champions, Virginia was the only ACC team to earn a birth in the NCAA tournament. The ACC is also the only conference in Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse that doesn’t have a conference championship. Maryland doesn’t look like it is coming back through the door, so expansion is the only opportunity for the ACC to earn an automatic-qualifier and have a conference tournament again.
Five additional programs already support women’s lacrosse in addition to the men’s game. One of the two already made my list. Financials will be the biggest roadblock for ACC expansion. Despite having its own television network, the ACC doesn’t bring in the same money as its Big Ten and SEC counterparts. The realignment carousel also threatens the future stability of the conference.
Other Names to Consider: Boston College, Pitt, Georgia Tech, Louisville
Clemson has a strong athletic department. In recent years, the boosters have come in to provide excellent facilities for their female student-athletes. Clemson currently completes in the MCLA and lost in the semifinals to Georgia Tech this past season.
Miami doesn’t sponsor women’s lacrosse but has a lot going for it as a future member of the ACC. Florida is a growing hotbed for lacrosse and Miami would be an ideal recruiting location. Those cascade helmets tell me that swagger needs to come to Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse.
The Big Ten made news two weeks ago when it announced the additions of USC and UCLA beginning in 2024. The Big Ten benefits from having their own network and will potentially have the largest television contract coming up. The addition of USC and UCLA is telling for the conference. The Big Ten’s footprint is largely in the Midwest and has seen a shrinking population base. The move to the west coast provides new doors and opportunities to the universities. Could lacrosse follow?
Michigan State University
The Michigan State lacrosse team got some of the biggest news since it was cut from being a Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse team back in 1997. The university is building a lacrosse facility for the team. The team currently competes in the MCLA and last won the national championship in 2018. Michigan already has two D1 lacrosse teams (Michigan and Detroit Mercy), could it support a third?
University of Southern California
The more likely candidate if the Big Ten decided to expand in lacrosse is to look to USC. California is another emerging hotbed for lacrosse and the Trojans already support a women’s lacrosse team. USC would be the ideal candidate to become the first California Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse program.
The SEC doesn’t currently sponsor men’s lacrosse but has two women’s programs, Florida and Vanderbilt. The deep south is an emerging market for lacrosse and I could see three schools potentially looking to add the sport. The biggest challenge to the sport? Baseball. Baseball is king in the spring in the SEC, but like everywhere else, lacrosse could find its niche.
Other Names to Consider: Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Texas A&M
Georgia is one of the fastest-growing states in the United States and you are seeing more and more lacrosse goals pop up around Atlanta and its surrounding suburbs.
Similar to Miami, adding Florida would give one of the largest schools in Florida the opportunity to add men’s lacrosse. I mean those uniforms alone are ready for the Division 1 scene.
Can I really leave out Texas and Kyle Hartzel? The burnt orange and white would make a statement on the D1 landscape. More and more top players are coming out of the Dallas and Houston area. Let’s help keep that growth going.
The Wild West
Most of the places suggested above already have a lacrosse presence, but where can we look to expand to? My eyes point to the west coast. The problem is there is great uncertainty with the universities out west. They don’t know if they are going to stay in the PAC12 or move to the Big Ten or Big 12. That being said, there are still a number of schools that would make attractive candidates.
Other Names to Consider: BYU and Arizona State
Nike. That’s the argument. Oregon has been cool for 20+ years in college football with their Nike uniforms. Could this give Nike another chance or opportunity at lacrosse? The school already sponsors a women’s team.
Seattle will host their first PLL game in the next few weeks. Seattle is also becoming an emerging tech hub. The campus is beautiful and could provide lacrosse with a great opportunity to expand into the northwest.
Stanford already sponsors 36 sports, including women’s lacrosse. What’s one more?
This is a great wish list and talking with coaches like John Paul who oversaw a program’s move from the MCLA to Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse is a big task. It’s nice to dream, I would love to hear from you in the comments about schools you think I may have missed.