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Varsity Status and a Well Organized MCLA Alumni Organization

When an athletic department begins to seriously consider adding Varsity Men's Lacrosse the likely first step, especially at the Division I level, is to create an exploratory committee or initiate a feasibility study. Many issues will be reviewed at this point in the process:

Facilities: Do we have an appropriate game and practice facility? Do we need to consider a new field surface (i.e. grass to field turf) or other facility renovations? Do we have a dedicated locker room for this program? Will it be a seasonal or year round locker room?

Interest: What is the interest level like locally? State wide? Is it a state sponsored championship high school sport? Are youth leagues prominent? Is there interest within the student body? Is it a sport that is trending nationally? Is there local talent that we could consider recruiting?

The Student Athlete: What type of student athlete will we be bringing to campus? Are they academically strong? Will they be a good fit in our community?

Regional and National Competition: Is their a reasonable amount of other programs whom sponsor lacrosse within driving distance? Does our universities primary athletic conference sponsor the sport? If not is there another conference willing to gain us entry? Can we compete for a national championship?

Internal Operations: Will adding this program require us to hire additional auxiliary staff? (athletic trainer, equipment manager, sport information coordinator etc) and if so what will their salary/benefits be? What will the cost of game operations be? (scorers table staff, ticket staff, public safety, etc). What will be the annual cost of outfitting this team with apparel and equipment? What will the travel budget look like? What will the coaches salary be? Will coaches be allowed to hold camps and if so will they be allowed to keep all revenue or will profit be shared with the university? What is the programs revenue potential? How many scholarships can we afford to allow this program to maintain?

Gender Equity: What will our equity numbers look like if we added this sport? Do we need to consider adding a womens sport as well? Do we consider roster manipulation of our current sports to get the balance we need?

Fundraising: Do we have any donors that may consider giving a gift to help the program get underway such as endowed scholarships or coaching positions? What do we think this programs fundraising potential is? What will their annual fundraising goal be? Is there a club team on campus and are their alumni organized?

This last area is where we are going to focus. If you are a leader of an MCLA program who dreams that someday their program will go varsity, most of the above points are out of your control. You can't control what your universities facilities are like, you can't control your athletic departments budget or ambitions, and you can't control the level of interest in your state's high schools. However, one thing you can control is your own program's alumni organization. Many MCLA teams already understand the benefits of having a well organized alumni group, i.e. more potential for fundraising, fan support, networking, and overall good will within the entire family that is your program. But another reason is a well organized club sport alumni group is appealing to an administration considering a move to varsity status. Is it the catalyst that will cause the move to varsity status? Most likely not. But it is a piece of the puzzle and it is a puzzle piece that is in your control.

It is in every MCLA teams best interest to have a well organized alumni group. Not just for the programs immediate benefit, but also to ensure the long time stability of the program and to display that you are a community and a well organized one at that. A word document with a bunch of emails from guys over the last couple seasons doesn't cut it. Teams need to do research to find alumni going as far back as your program has existed. Search your universities archives, old yearbooks, the online alumni database, Facebook, Google and any other resource you have to maximize your alumni directory. Who knows, you may come upon an angel donor who may take your program straight to varsity status. Once you have your alumni list you need to take advantage of it, make the alumni feel like part of your family. Organize golf outings, alumni games, tailgate events, networking sessions, mentor assignments and so on. Keep in contact with your alumni by maintaining a newsletter and holding a yearly conference call. Send the alumni email updates on the season, game recaps, player blogs, etc. It also helps if you have a standalone page dedicated to your alumni where they can easily find information on events and sign up or register for your alumni database.  Some current examples:

http://mgobluelacrosse.com/alumni/
http://www.uconnlacrosseassociation.com
http://www.azteclax.org/AALF.htm
http://csulacrosse.com/alumni/
http://tidelax.ialax.com/index.php?section=alumni

As one would imagine organizing an alumni association as we've outlined takes a lot of work, which can be daunting given the many other responsibilities required of a student ran MCLA program. One solution is to have a dedicated team officer who's responsibility is specifically related to alumni relations, research, history and so on. But no matter who's responsibility it is, teams will find that the time and effort put into organizing their alumni will be well worth it due to the potential for both short and long term benefits.

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