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If You Could Add Another Sport…

Frequent commenter and friend of blog(er) formerlyanon and I are were talking yesterday about how successful the athletic department has been in terms of coaching hires, facilities improvement, profitability, program success, etc.  While there have been some historically bad seasons in football and basketball, many of the non-revenue sports experienced a lot of success.  The current programs are fairly strong and there doesn’t seem to be issues with revenue streams, so we figured it’s about time to add more varsity sports. If my memories serves me, the last new varsity sport is Woman’s Water Polo which got started in 2001.

Obviously creating a varsity team or even promoting a club varsity team to full varsity status has a lot of strings attached. Obviously there is the cost of equipment, coaches, conference affiliation (if the Big Ten doesn’t have a championship in the new sport) as well as travel to teams that aren’t in the area.  Beyond cost, there is the Title IX issue requiring roughly equal scholarships that also needs to be factored into the equation as well as countless other issues that I am omitting.

The Unofficial Varsity Blue Position

Admittedly this isn’t thinking too far outside of the box, but adding Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse seems to make the most sense to me.  Some reasons why I think it’s a good idea in bulleted list form:

  • Facilities already exist
  • Men’s Club Varsity team has experienced a lot of success on its current level (National Champs!). Information is a bit hard to find on the Woman’s club team, but in 2007 they went 15-5 in the regular season, which seems good.
  • Natural rivals in the area: Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State all have programs.
  • Growing interest in the sport.  It seems as though ESPN is pushing it rather hard, and ESPN really shapes the viewing market.
  • At least for men, a major league exists.
  • Just what we need to put some heat on Stanford for the Director’s Cup*
  • Equal scholarships/teams added, so maybe there won’t be an issue with Title IX?

But there are some issues:

  • Seemingly most fitting conference, the ECAC, has a pretty large footprint. In 2010 it will go from Massachusetts to Colorodo.
  • The Big Ten doesn’t have Lacrosse.
  • There are some real power houses in Lacrosse, so the teams may not have much initial success.
  • Despite ESPN trying to make it cool, Lacrosse is still a niche sport.
  • It would cost a lot of dollars.

Obviously there are a lot of things that I haven’t thought of in these lists.  Additionally there may be other sports that may be a better choice.  There’s a list of official Club Varsity level sports on MGoBlue for your (brief) perusal.  So if you have suggestions about my idea or your own idea, leave it in the comments.

*Adding another sport will not help much at all to wrest the Director’s Cup away from Stanford. Unless adding that additional team causes all the other teams to win national champioships.

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8 Comments so far

  1. Pat says...

    This is what I have been saying for years. Mens Lacrosse used to be a varsity sport, but alas Title IX ruined that. It would be a good fit because there is already an excellent coach in pplace, there are sponsors, and Adidas makes lacrosse stuff, so it would fit in with the rest of the department. The crazy thing is that lacrosse at Michigan is treated by the team and coaches as pretty much a Varsity sport, but they have to pay for it themselves. I doubt we would challenge for National Championships within the first ten years (Only four teams have won one since 1977: Princeton, Hopkins, Syracuse, and Virginia). I do think that the team could make the NCAA tournament’s later rounds however, which would then attract better recruits, and so on.

  2. Ann Arbor 1879 says...

    Water Polo should be a NCAA sanctioned sport in the mid-west. All Big Ten teams plus ND all have failry long standing club teams in place. As does GVSU. Title IX is the only reason for it not being a varsity sport in my opinion.

  3. Julian says...

    Although most people don’t know this, men’s crew has been even more successful than lacrosse in recent years. For years they’ve consistently been a top 25 team as well as the top club team in the country seven of the last eight years. The coach, Gregg Hartsuff, coached for the Olympic team in Athens. The team has produced 8 national team members. A new indoor training facility is being built, but the program is, in general, run on a shoestring. It would be nice to see these boys get some more support.

  4. GregGoBlue says...

    Definitely, definitely Men’s Lacrosse. I played on the U of M Men’s Lacrosse Team a few years ago, and, believe me, the program is legit. Coach John Paul is an excellent head coach with lots of knowledge about the game. In previous seasons, the Men’s Lacrosse team has played various division I opponents and hung with them all (they even played final four-bound John’s Hopkins a few years ago!).

    The players have to pay their own way (somewhere around $1700), but we already largely have great sponsorships in place. Ridell, for example, makes the U of M lacrosse helmets (we were the prototype for their LAX helmet line), and U of M lacrosse, at least when I played, was outfitted with premium equipment from Warrior.

    With a national championship under our belt and many, many conference titles, the Men’s Lacrosse team is a prime candidate for elevation. Go Blue!

  5. RFV says...

    I have to disagree with your assessment that lacrosse is a niche sport. I think you severely underestimate the popularity of the sport, especially at the high school level. It is huge on the east coast from New England to the south and gaining ground in the midwest and west every year. It is an exciting, physical sport to watch and it is the natural choice to add to Michigan’s athletic portfolio.

  6. Other Chris says...

    Stanford is looking at possibly eliminating some sports to deal with a budget deficit:

    http://www.usatoday.com/printedition/sports/20090121/c9update21_st.art.htm

    So one part of your nefarious scheme is already working!

    As another East Coaster (and not even from Maryland!) I agree that you might not realize how popular lacrosse is elsewhere.

  7. Paul says...

    I agree that Lacrosse is popular elsewhere. I’m just not convinced that Lacrosse’s particular elsewhere is that big. It seems to be popular on the East Coast from Maine to the Carolinas, but interest seems to flag a bit West of the Appalachians. I’m not saying this is a compelling reason not to have a Lax team. The same reasoning hasn’t stopped us from having a Water Polo team.

  8. great tips. I enjoyed reading this

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