April 19, 2012

Schooling Schooler: Break Up the SELC (Literally)

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Freshman middie Peyton Stone (above) and Virginia Tech just might win the SELC championship this year, but the Hokies and the other 19 teams that currently make of up the league would benefit from a conference split both competitively and financially. 
© Cecil Copeland

In a couple of weeks, the largest collegiate lacrosse conference at any level will start its eight-team conference tournament. The Southeastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) will have pared down its monstrous, 20-team, four-division membership in hopes of crowning a champion.

Hopefully, this will be one of the few remaining years that the SELC, as it's currently configured, will be in existence. It is time for the league to split into two, 10-team leagues.

This won't be a popular concept with the rest of the MCLA, and I get why. The addition of another automatic qualifying league without an expansion of the tournament will chew up another at-large berth that would go to one of the power conferences. Throw in the fact that the SELC, for all of its size, has rarely been a player on the national level. No SELC team has participated in a championship game and only two (Virginia Tech '97, Florida State '05) have even reached the semifinals.

Why reward the programs in a league that hasn't been able to consistently produce top teams?

From a competitive standpoint, that is a legitimate question. But my argument has nothing to do with competition. This is about getting what you pay for.

Every team in the association pays $2,000 to MCLA at the beginning of the year. That money goes into the pot to pay for various services, including preparations for the national tournament. This means that the 20 SELC teams are ponying up $40,000 for access to one bid to the tournament while the RMLC (6 teams), CCLA (6), UMLL (6), PCLL (7) and WCLL (7) are all getting their shot at nationals at a pretty significant discount.

Putting it another way, the 94 teams in MCLA Division I bring $188,000, and one of the 10 conferences comprising the MCLA is bearing a 21 percent of the burden with no extra benefit. That's a bad model for an organization.

Even if the SELC split into two 10-team leagues, it would still be paying more, or the same, as all but three of the other MCLA conferences, but at least it would be in the same neighborhood. As of right now, the SELC isn't maximizing its money.

The interesting aspect of this whole thing is no matter how much other teams, conferences or even administrators may think the splitting of the SELC is a bad idea, it's really not up to them. If the SELC announced that they wanted to split up next year, the proposal would most likely be approved. But that would mean a second administration – conference president, treasurer, etc. – would need to be formulated, as well as a location for a new league tournament. These are no small considerations for coaches who already make peanuts, although the SLC managed to pull it off when it broke away from the WCLL a couple of years ago.

So in the end, it will be up to the current members of the SELC as to whether they want to provide their student-athletes a more equitable path to the national tournament or continue to be the chumps who pick up a disproportionate percentage of the tab.

Nick, you're a "Spread the Wealth" kind of guy. Isn't it time for the SELC to split up so they can grab their piece of the pie?

SCHOOLER: I don't think that teams around the MCLA would be upset about a split in the SELC. Yes, an at large spot will be lost, but if you look at the current poll, that team would be Michigan State being replaced by Clemson. Not a bad swap in my mind. Arizona State and Colorado in the "power conferences" would still be safe. Apart from nostagia, this would be a good move.

Splitting a league with so much history is always tough to do. When the WCLL split, there was a part of me that was outraged. How could you break up a league will so much history? The WCLL defined West Coast lacrosse dating back to the late 1960's, much like how the SELC has defined southeastern lacrosse. Some of the current SLC colleges such as UCSB, UCLA, Arizona, and Whittier had their names all over the WCLL championship trophy. There was a certain pride in winning the WCLL that I felt would be lost with the creation of the SLC.

But in the end, a new history has commenced. Chapman and ASU have dominated the SLC as of late, but Arizona and UCSB are looking strong this year. Teams like LMU and UNLV are getting a better shot at nationals; an experience that every team should have.

On top of that, a short 90-minute drive from Santa Barbara to San Louis Obispo is now a quality out-of-conference game for those two teams. The Pac-12 shootout now provides teams with more chances to get OOC games.

This could have been very helpful for Georgia this season and Clemson last season. Both teams needed to win the SELC to make nationals because they did not meet the requirements of an at-large team in which three OOC games are needed.

There has always been a lot of whining and complaining from the online message boards about western teams not making the trip to the East to play games. That should not be an issue anymore once the split occurs. For example, a Virginia Tech versus Florida State match-up will not only count as an OOC game, but it will likely count as a quality OOC game assuming both teams have a good season.

So now is the time. The SELC usually has two teams that are worthy of a trip to the national tournament. They pay their dues. It's time to split that behemoth of a conference. Spread the wealth! Hope! Change!

To the games (where Nick is 34-26 and Jac is 33-27 after Coyne makes up some ground)...

No. 5 Chapman (13-3) at No. 3 UC Santa Barbara (11-1) – Saturday, 1 p.m. PT

COYNE: While Arizona State may eventually have something to say about it, this is likely a preview of the SLC championship game coming up on May 6. In addition, both these teams are looking pretty good for a top five seed in Greenville at this point. So what will separate these two teams on Saturday?

The most obvious is the locale, and playing in The Pit will undoubtedly give the Gauchos a bit of an advantage. UCSB's talented midfield unit is another feather in its cap, but all of the rest of the check marks are with the Panthers. Madison Fiore and Andrew Clayton are a battle-hardened attack duo while Mat Walrath leads the stingy Chapman defense from his LSM position. Faceoffs and goaltending lean toward Chaptown, as well.

It'll be close because this is a decent rivalry, but Chapman escapes Isla Vista unscathed, 10-8.

SCHOOLER: The selfish side of me wants the Gauchos to lose this game so I have one more home game to watch, but the Gaucho side of me cannot do that. I think I have picked against UCSB once in the last three years, and I will never hear the end of it. So it is no surprise that I am going with the home team.

Because it lacks the prerequisite number of non-conference games, Georgia is only eligible for the SELC automatic qualifier. With a split league, good teams without huge budget like the Dawgs would have easier access to close non-league opponents.
© Cecil Copeland

UCSB finally decided to play hard against a weaker opponent last weekend when it stomped San Diego State, 19-4. But Chapman also roughed up a quality Loyola Marymount team. So both teams are looking strong heading into what has turned into one of the best SLC rivalry games.

Chapman might as well leave the four bus loads of fans at home because this is going to be a Gaucho clinic. UCSB takes down Chaptown, 11-8.

No. 10 California (9-2) at No. 15 Sonoma State (7-2) – Saturday, 1 p.m. PT

COYNE: I think it's unlikely that the WCLL will be able to get a second bid to nationals unless one of the challengers upsets Cal Poly in the conference tournament. The schedules, while decent, don't have enough weight to go head-to-head with some of the other at-large contenders out there. With that said, if there was going to be a second challenger out of the WCLL, it will be the winner of this game.

Both of these teams are enigmatic for me. They don't have any superstars; just a bunch of grinders who chew up the middleweights, but can't quite contend with the big dogs. The Seawolves don't have much of a home field advantage – they are currently 0-2 in Rohnert Park – and the Bears have a game-changing FOGO in rookie Evan Price. Possessions will be crucial, and Cal will have the extra ones it needs to take down 'Nomas. Da Bears, 11-10.

SCHOOLER: This would normally be a no-brainer for me. Why would I ever pick against my beloved Cal Bears? Here is why: they have not played against a quality opponent since they narrowly lost to Cal Poly back in February.

Sonoma has played pretty well as of late. They knocked off a quality (even though the polls say otherwise) Texas team on the road. They also beat up a solid Stanford team. But every squad they beat drops in the polls. Could the voters be wrong? Maybe the Seawolves are good and the teams they beat are not as bad as voters think.

Going with my line of thinking, and the fact that the Bears are playing in Rohnert Park, I am taking 'Noma, 10-8.

No. 8 Buffalo (7-1) at No. 14 Connecticut (9-1) – Sunday, 1 p.m.

COYNE: This is the toughest pick of the week. We've basically got Buffalo against the "New Buffalo," as Connecticut has mirrored the Bulls quick rise to top of the PCLL charts last spring. Both teams have conference player of the year candidate – Kevin Canavan for UConn; Alex Hultgren for Buffalo – and both bring hopes of the league's top seed heading into this game.

Alas, my old rule comes into play to pick this one. The Bulls are doubling down this weekend, playing Boston University at 7 p.m. on Saturday night before turning around and playing the Huskies at 1 p.m. on Sunday. That's a pair of games 18 hours at two different locations. I'll probably take the Bulls in the PCLL tourney on a level playing field, but not here. UConn, 12-9.

SCHOOLER: I am not impressed with Buffalo this season. Don't get me wrong. They have not disappointed anyone, but they have not wowed us either. They are right about where we expected them.

The Huskies are the Buffalo of last season. Out of nowhere, they have jumped into the national conversation. Kevin Canavan has put together another stellar season, and has been unstoppable. If Buffalo can hold him to single goal, they will win, but I do not see that happening. UConn wins, 11-8.

Coyne's Pick

Iowa (4-4) at Minnesota (5-6) – Saturday, 1 p.m. CT

COYNE: That's right, two consecutive weeks of the Hawkeyes. Nick and I hopped on the Hawk train last week against Mizzou, but the Tigers proved too tough in an 11-9 win. Although Floyd of Rosedale isn't on the line, whenever Minnesota and Iowa square off, it's time to take notice.

Iowa generates a lot of their offense out of the midfield, led by junior Jay Morgan (12g, 11a in eight games), which can cause problems for teams used to stopping high-powered attack units. Minnesota head coach Joe Cinosky is one of the better defensemen around, so I'm guessing he'll probably have an answer. And, to the Gophers' credit, they've played a far stronger schedule to this point.

If this game was being played in the Metrodome, it'd be the Hawks by 10-plus, but with the game being played at Mankato State, it'll just be a couple. Idiots Out Wandering Around, 11-9.

SCHOOLER: Don't know if anyone has noticed, but the UMLL championship is not being handed to Duluth this season. The Gophers have reemerged as a contender just like in 2005 when they grabbed the UMLL championship.

While Jac will probably lean on the Hawkeyes in this one, I have grown fond of the Gophers. They challenged themselves by making a four-game trip through California. While the games did not necessarily work out for them, they gained some valuable experience. A strong midfield and quality goalie play will win this for Minnesota, 10-8.

Schooler's Pick

No. 9 Colorado (7-5) at No. 4 Colorado State (10-2) – Saturday, 6 p.m. MT

SCHOOLER: If there is a game that rivals the BYU/CSU game, this is it. Neither side takes this game lightly, and the Rams better not take a break because Colorado has turned their season around.

After upsetting BYU, the Buffs are hot. Coach Galvin has them believing they can win this game and every game left this season.

A part of me wants to pick the Buffs, but I know how Coach Smith approaches games like these. He is similar to Coach Galvin in his mindset. There is no doubt in his mind that they will win. That is the swagger that the Rams approach their business.

Colorado State needs to win by more than two goals to secure the top spot in the RMLC playoffs, and I don't see them having trouble doing this. Rams win 9-6.

COYNE: Colorado caught BYU looking ahead to CSU and likely snagged a victory that will propel them to Greenville. Nobody can take that away from them. But this is also a team that lost to both Loyola Marymount and Arizona, and mustered just a pair of goals against UCSB.

The Buffs are going to have trouble scoring goals against an amped up Rams squad, and State has the offense to put this one away early. If they meet again in the RMLC playoffs, it might be a little closer, but it's the Rams in this one, 11-3.

Schooling Schooler Archive

Week Nine: Schedule Spotlights Coaches
Week Eight: The Problem With Polls
Week Seven: When Will Duluth Break Through?
Week Six: The MCLA's Internecine Snobbery
Week Five: Finally, the Buffaloes Stampede
Week Four: Spartans Make Their Stand
Week Three: Wither the Sun Devils?
Week Two: Nick's Bittersweet Weekend
Week One: Time to Feed the Ego

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