The debate never ends. Which is the best college for lacrosse? You’ve got Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, North Carolina and Virginia fans all arguing that their college team reins supreme, among other NCAA schools.
But, which college exactly is the best?
I don’t know if I have a definitive answer to that, but I definitely have an opinion.
But first, let’s explore some of the merits of some of the best lacrosse colleges for both the men’s and women’s sport in all of the NCAA divisions.
Which Is The Best College For Lacrosse?
We’re basing our criteria for which is the best college for lacrosse on a few factors: the number of total NCAA championships, total NCAA championship appearances, conference tournament titles, Tewaaraton winners, the program’s overall win-loss record, the number of All-Americans, the quality of coaches that have coached at the program, the quality of the facilities (including the best stadium views!), among other things.
From an NCAA championship standpoint, it’s hard to argue against either Syracuse University or Johns Hopkins. The Orange have won 10 national championships in 16 title game appearances, and have had what seems like 12 of the top 5 all-time players (OK, so we’re being a bit facetious) to have ever played the game as alumni. Gary and Paul Gait? Casey, Ryan and Mikey Powell?! JIM BROWN?!?! It’s hard to mention the word “lacrosse” and not have some sort of reference to Syracuse University come up at least once. The only reason the Orange don’t have roughly a bajillion conference titles is because the lacrosse team didn’t join a conference until 2010 when they joined the Big East. They have since moved to the ACC, and already have four conference titles and five regular season conference titles since joining their first conference in 2010.
Johns Hopkins, meanwhile, has made an appearance in all but two NCAA Men’s Division I Lacrosse post-season tournaments — the first tournament in 1971 and again in 2013. Talk about excellence. They have made 41 NCAA quarterfinal appearances and 29 NCAA Final Fours. They’ve won nine national championships and have appeared in 18 total national championship games. The Blue Jays have 970 all-time wins, with only 329 losses and 15 ties — good for a .746 winning percentage. I don’t know if I’ve ever done something with .746 efficiency in my life, except maybe in terms of eating .746 percent of a medium-sized pizza. They also have 35 pre-NCAA national championships, which is nothing to sneeze at.
In my mind, those two schools are the clear front runners. Of course, other schools belong in the conversation of which is the best college for lacrosse, such as the University of Virginia and Princeton University. Virginia has won six of their own national titles while appearing in 10 titles games. The Wahoos have made 39 NCAA tournament appearances of their own, and have had legendary coaches at the helm such as Dom Starsia and Jack Emmer. Princeton, on the other hand, has won six national championships themselves in eight appearances on lacrosse’s largest stage. Bill Tierney coached at Princeton before he left for Denver, who led Princeton to each of those six national titles. The Tigers have appeared in 20 national tournaments, and even had a streak of 14 consecutive post-season appearances from 1990-2003.
North Carolina is right behind Virginia and Princeton with five national championships in six championship appearances, and have appeared in the post-season tournament 32 times. The Tar Heels have had 39 First-Team All-Americans, and actually are the only team to have won a national title as an unseeded team. They’ve made it to 24 quarterfinals and 14 NCAA Final Fours.
The last team that I will mention in this conversation is the University of Maryland. The Terps have appeared in 14 national championship games, third only to Syracuse and Johns Hopkins. They’ve made 42 NCAA tournament appearances and have won more regular season conference titles than the world’s oldest man has on his birthday cake (OK, another exaggeration. This may be a bit presumptuous on my part, but I doubt someone who is 114 years old would actually want a cake with that many candles. I figure you could realistically fit around 30 candles on a normal-sized birthday cake without it being a fire hazard, and it just so happens that Maryland has won 35 regular season conference championships. So, technically I’m right…). The Terps have been coached by the legendary Bud Beardmore and Dick Edell, and have had over 124 First-Team All-Americans come through the program, including Matt Rambo — who surprisingly won the program’s first Tewaaraton — Frank Urso, Joe Walters, Jim Beardmore and Bob Ott.
In my mind, these are the only programs you can only realistically include in the conversation, given that these are the most successful programs at college lacrosse’s highest level. Sure, there are plenty of dominant teams at the NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III levels, but I’d put my money on the best NCAA Division I team over one of those squads 9 times out of 10. There, of course, are many other fantastic Division I programs out there, but these are the few who have had success that few other colleges have had.
As I mentioned, I think that in my mind it’s a two-team competition between Syracuse and Johns Hopkins. Here’s where the better stadium view factor comes into play. As I mentioned in that article, I don’t think the Carrier Dome can necessarily count as a quality “view” considering that it is an indoor facility. Homewood Field is a nice setting, and both are some of college lacrosse’s most historic venues. I’m tempted to give the best college in lacrosse award to Hopkins, but I know that our NCAA editor Ryan Conwell might never speak to me again and would start a feud between the two of us that would probably last until the end of time or until I confessed that Syracuse is the best men’s college lacrosse program in existence… whichever came first. So, I’ve got to go with Syracuse on this one.
Best Men’s College For Lacrosse: Syracuse University
The University of Maryland women’s lacrosse team has virtually gone unmatched in terms of its success since the NCAA began their women’s Division I championships in 1982. The ‘Terps have won 14 national titles, the best of any college program in any division — men’s or women’s. They have appeared in 22 NCAA National Championships, another best for any lacrosse program in existence. The women’s lacrosse team at Maryland has an all-time 728-138-3 record, good for an .838 winning percentage over the program’s history. For perspective, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team, which is probably the most dominant team in all of sports, has an .884 winning percentage under current head coach Luigi “Gene” Auriemma, who has posted a 1062–139 record while at UCONN. The only other comparison I can think to make at the collegiate level is the University of Alabama football team, but even that program has only won a measly .733 percent of its games in comparison.
Maryland has also had eight of its players win the Tewaaraton since the award’s inception in 2001, another best in both women’s and men’s lacrosse.
The next closest Division I team in terms of national championships to Maryland is Northwestern with seven national titles in eight appearances. Northwestern has also won the second-most Tewaaraton awards in all of college lacrosse, and has registered an all-time record of 375-136, or roughly a .734 winning percentage.
For me, I don’t really think that there is any debate for which is the best college for lacrosse in the women’s game. Go Terps!
Best Women’s College For Lacrosse: University of Maryland
The Best College For Lacrosse
Now, the question of which is the best college overall for lacrosse is a much tougher query. On the one hand, you have such a dominant force in Maryland Women’s Lacrosse that it certainly bolsters the university’s case in combination with the obvious success of their men’s team as well. However, the fact that the Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse team is the top pick of in NCAA Men’s Lacrosse, in combination with a solid women’s program — that has never won a national championship, however — makes it a tough call. The Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse team has never won a national title either, which hurts the Blue Jays chances.
However, I think that given the success of both its men’s and women’s programs, picking the University of Maryland as the best college for lacrosse is a fairly safe choice. Now, I know that may stoke the fire a bit as to whether the state of New York or Maryland has the most successful lacrosse, but it’s hard to argue.
Best College For Lacrosse: University of Maryland
Disagree with my assessment? Do you maybe have some criteria I missed or a program I hadn’t considered? Share in the comments or tag us on social media (@LaxAllStars) and let us hear about it.