July 8, 2014
Marquette claimed the first win in the history of its men's program Saturday, edging Air Force 8-6 at Falcon Stadium.  © Marc Piscotty
Marquette claimed the first win in the history of its men's program Saturday, edging Air Force 8-6 at Falcon Stadium. © Marc Piscotty

Air Force Likely to Play as Independent in 2015

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Air Force coach Eric Seremet said Tuesday that the Falcons are likely to play as an independent in 2015. (Marc Piscotty)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When the merry-go-round of conference realignment, which has impacted lacrosse the most over the last two years, finally stopped for the time being, Air Force found itself the only NCAA Division I men's lacrosse program without a league home heading into the 2015 season.

It's likely to stay that way, head coach Eric Seremet said Tuesday, with the Falcons, fresh off their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1988, looking like they will play as the nation's lone independent.

Air Force had a banner year in 2014, winning the ECAC in that league's last season of Division I lacrosse existence an earning an NCAA automatic qualifying bid. But while other teams in the league headed into the season knowing not only it was their last ECAC year, but also where they would play in 2015, the Air Force administration was not able to secure a conference home for men's lacrosse past 2014.

Seremet, in his seventh year as Air Force head coach after spending seven seasons as an assistant with the program, said he's holding out hope an arrangement can be worked out with the Southern Conference (formerly Atlantic Sun), which Air Force showed interest in initially one year ago, or the Patriot League or Big East, but the possibility is slim and any move would not happen until the fall, after the ideal early summer window for such an announcement.

"I'm confident in our ability to compete in many conferences," Seremet said Tuesday, while hosting the U.S. men's national team for practice at Air Force's indoor fieldhouse in Colorado Springs ahead of the FIL World Championship, which begins Thursday in Denver. "I'd be most enthusiastic about the Southern Conference. The size of our school, the academic quality of our schools, I think those would be good fits. I'd probably be pretty enthusiastic about the Patriot League, and pretty enthusiastic about the Big East."

Seremet said Air Force's 2015 schedule has every Southern Conference team on it besides High Point and Richmond, and was hopeful the matter could be discussed more within that league at meetings in the fall.

Any membership for Air Force would be an affiliate membership, which Seremet said he's not sure the Patriot League or Big East would be willing to welcome. A Patriot League landing spot would give that league 10 teams, and perhaps create a need for two five-team divisions, he said, but it would also put Air Force in a league with natural rivals Army and Navy.

Air Force finished 11-6 last season and beat Richmond 13-5 in an NCAA tournament play-in game in Colorado Springs before falling to Duke in a first-round game. The team played and Seremet coached in the wake of the tragic death of coach Seremet's wife in a car accident in the fall.

The program had its first MLL draft pick in January, midfielder Erik Smith, who was named an honorable mention All-American at the end of the season along with senior midfielder Mike Crampton, who scored 48 goals. The pair was the program's first All-Americans since 1997, and the first Air Force duo to earn the recognition in the same season since 1971. Air Force posted a winning record for the first time since 1997.

If Air Force isn't able to find a conference home, its NCAA tournament chances are remote, given a strength of schedule that won't rank among the nation's elite.

"The bottom line is our program has evolved," Seremet said. "We hadn't really won a lot, and we've made some good progress. At a service academy, where our kids our going to be in the military, where there are a lot bigger issues out there, we want to give them the best experience we can so that when they leave this place, they're going to leave here with some good tools and good experience and a lot of confidence to serve and lead people. That's our mission here. While they're going through the struggles of their four years here, lacrosse is a big part of their experience here.

"Being in a conference, and giving them the ability to compete for a championship, and like last year, winning a championship, I think is going to give them a lot to take with them when they serve in the military."

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