February 14, 2012

Boston University Adds Division I Men's Lacrosse for 2013-14 Season

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Courtesy Boston University athletics

Once is nice, twice is a pattern and is three a trend?

Boston University on Tuesday morning said it will elevate men's lacrosse from club to varsity status beginning with the 2013-14 season. The news comes less than a week after Furman University in South Carolina said it would add NCAA Division I men's and women's programs for the spring 2015 season, and roughly two weeks after the University of Colorado announced its plans for a Division I women's team in the spring of 2014.

Talk about growth. It's happening.

The Boston news came in conjunction with the a statement from the university announcing a $3 million gift from Boston-based New Balance for a new state-of-the-art athletic facility for field hockey "and the entire BU community," the university said.

Men's lacrosse will not play home games at the new facility -- the team may practice there, an athletic department spokesperson told Lacrosse Magazine on Tuesday -- but the creation of the new facility opened up time and space at Nickerson Field, which is used for various BU club and intramural sports and classes. Men's lacrosse will play at Nickerson, the former home of Major League Lacrosse's Boston Cannons that in 2004 and 2005 served as host for the MLL Championship Weekend.

BU will look to hire a head coach by late spring or summer of this year, which coincides with the end of the current college lacrosse season. The team likely will join the America East Conference, playing in league with Albany, Binghamton, Hartford, Stony Brook, UMBC and Vermont.

The BU women currently play in the America East and have won nine conference titles and reached the 2005 NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

BU on Tuesday also announced the addition of women's lightweight rowing, starting with the 2012-13 season. The additions of that sport and varsity men's lacrosse mark the first time the roster of sports at BU has expanded since 2004, and bring the total number of sports offered to 25, 11 men's and 14 women's.

"This is another giant step forward for our program, with strategic investments in programs that are vital to the continued development of our department and the enhanced national visibility of the BU Athletics' brand," BU assistant vice president and director of athletics Mike Lynch said. "We are thrilled with this development and wish to thank all those who are helping to bring it to fruition."

It's unclear who's next to add lacrosse as a varsity sport, but it's hard to ignore the recent trend.

The University of Southern California, which added Division I women's lacrosse in November 2010, has also had internal discussions about adding a Division I men's team. That continues, although no announcment is imminent.

USC senior associate athletic director Mark Jackson told LM last May, "We recognize how fast the sport is growing, and the popularity from youth lacrosse all the way up. It's something we're really cognizant of. We launched women's lacrosse and hopefully men's lacrosse is somewhere in our future."

Jackson told Lacrosse Magazine Wednesday night there have been no further developments.

What is clear is athletic departments and colleges and universities are finding lacrosse can provide benefits to their institutions.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon laid out his vision for the sport in an interview with LM last fall, in which he called lacrosse "a sport of the future" that would allow the school to build its brand and reach new people on television and other media.

Even so, a practical matter is having the resources, funding and gender equity to start a varsity program or programs, which Brandon alluded to in that same interview. The Furman programs, for example, were added following a $5 million anonymous donation. Michigan had a very supportive fundraising group. Boston University added in part because of field space opened up by its new athletic facility that came from a $3 million gift.

But as Brandon, the former CEO of Domino's Pizza, said of his reasons for green-lighting the Wolverines' varsity men's and women's programs, "We're blessed here with having the resources that afford us the ability, and the donor base, to do this. I don't know that everybody does, but there are a number who do and I would suggest that if they are looking at the same trends we were looking at and if they're thinking about the future, I would expect that there would be other program's added. I would be surprised if there weren't."

After these last two weeks, it's safe to say he's not surprised.

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