The Future of Lacrosse
Over the past 30 years, lacrosse has exponentially grown, to a point where cities further West than the East Coast have lacrosse, and to the skill level where they can hop in and compete at the same level as the rest of the country. What does this mean for the future of lacrosse? Earlier this year, it was announced that the Utah Utes will start their Division 1 program in 2019. This marks the furthest West team in Division 1 lacrosse up to this point in history. In 2015, when Denver won the National Championship, they became the most Westward team to win the crown. Before them, that plaque belonged to North Carolina. This really shows how East coast of a sport lacrosse was. Notre Dame came close, twice, losing in the National Championship both times. The tables have turned. In my opinion, the Utes will be competitive with the top D1 teams within their first three years as a program. The reason is simply this: West coast recruiting.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
In the past, many West coast stud lacrosse players have decided to attend national powerhouses such as Duke, Hopkins and Maryland. Those three teams alone have combined for 14 National Championships since 1971. In the last seven years, there have been six champions with the only repeat name being Duke in 2013 and 2014. Lacrosse is diversifying, expanding, catching the country by storm and it is easy to notice.
I attended the Under Armour Underclass Tournament the past two summers which are held at Towson University. They bring together teams that are compiled by region of the country such as West, Baltimore, Upstate NY, etc. About four or five years ago when I was in high school, I followed the tournament because I knew most of the kids playing for the Baltimore team. It was rare to see a championship game that did not include Baltimore, Philadelphia or Long Island. After a bit of a hiatus following the tournament, the past two years seemed much different from 2013 and 2014. Better teams pull away in some games, but most contests I watched were very competitive. Regions like the South, Midwest and West were stocked full of kids committed to big name schools up and down the East coast.
My point is this: Going back to Utah, they have brought in a young coaching staff full of big names. Marcus Holman, Will Manny and Adam Ghitelman, and led by head coach Brian Holman. More so for the West, but kids from the Midwest and Southwest as well are going to be more inclined to attend Utah rather than trek across the country to attend a Virginia or North Carolina. Add that to the increase in talent from these regions, the Utes will be perfectly fine staying in the West to recruit players. For a point of reference, 2017’s #1 High School recruit, Bubba Fairman, is originally from Utah. He played with the West team in the 2016 Underclass Tournament and lit it up.
This past April, the NCAA announced their future quarterfinal and championship sites through 2022. The furthest West that puts teams is quarterfinal matchups in 2021 and 2022 in South Bend and Columbus. Yes, this may be 5 years down the road, but in the years following 2022 will these sites possibly include Denver? Utah? Southern California? The train has left the station and Utah is starting lacrosse’s Westward expansion. Will the MLL ever return to the Bay area?
Seeing the success that will come from this program in a short amount of time, other big name schools out West are going to be inclined to invest in a lacrosse program. Lacrosse is going to continue its tear through the middle United States throughout the next few years. As I return to school in Ohio for my senior year, I continue to hear stories of kids who choose to play college lacrosse over football. Although it may be two years down the road, make sure to look for Utah making an impact on the college lacrosse scene, and quite possibly other teams to follow in creating their own program.
The fastest game on two feet is sweeping the nation. Keep an eye out this fall (or more importantly this coming spring) for a lacrosse game on ESPN (or even better in Baltimore) because you too may be convinced to hop on the lacrosse bandwagon.