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NCAA Soccer Proposal to Encroach On Lacrosse Spring Season

There is a potential conflict stirring behind the scenes in the NCAA right now. Two Division I coaching committees are about to come to a head over a proposal to expand the NCAA Soccer season. The Men’s Soccer Division I Coaching Committee is submitting a proposal to the NCAA with support from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer, which would largely eliminate mid-week games and move the NCAA soccer tournament to the spring:

"Under a proposal formulated by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, the number of official team days would grow to 144 from 132. Teams would open training camp in late August, hold two friendlies, then play 13 matches between mid-September and the weekend before Thanksgiving. (Currently, some teams play two friendlies and as many as 24 games between late August and the holiday.) From late November until late February, teams would go on winter break, restricted to eight hour-long training sessions. Spring training camp would begin in late February and include one friendly. The season would resume in mid-March and include nine regular season matches, plus conference and NCAA tournament games." - Washington Post

In addition to the coaches association the proposal has support from a block of athletic administrators led by former Houston Dynamo President and current WVU AD Oliver Luck.

What is the reason for this push for change by the soccer conglomerate?

There are several.  1) College soccer coaches feel they are trying to cram too many games and practices into a fall season that is not consistent with other soccer leagues nationwide, many that play 10 month seasons. 2) For this reason they argue that many of the best players in the country are forgoing a college soccer experience in favor of other development opportunities. 3) They also argue that those that do play in college are not as prepared for post-collegiate soccer opportunities due to the limitations of the current structure 4) College soccer has long been envious of sports (like lacrosse) that have marquee championship weekends.  The NCAA College Cup, played in the month of December, struggles for tv coverage and fans, with only a few thousand often attending. 5) Soccer is clearly sick of being the little brother to Football and Basketball in the fall months.  Lacrosse has had the benefit of, for the most part, competing against the less tv friendly and more regional college baseball/softball.  Soccer wants a piece of that spring time exposure as well.

How does this affect the sport of lacrosse?

It comes down to a conflict over resources and space. Over 2/3 of all NCAA varsity lacrosse programs share a field with soccer, meaning soccer gets the field priority in the fall and lacrosse in the spring.  Additionally, about 1/3 of all varsity lacrosse programs, especially at the Division III level, share a locker room with their schools soccer team on a seasonal basis.  With only so many hours in a day, and knowing that not every school has a field with lights, how will schools that have M/W Lacrosse also add M. Soccer to their spring schedules?  Will all soccer programs now expect a year-round locker room and how will that be handled with those teams that share seasonally with lacrosse?  What if both teams share the same athletic trainer on an in-season basis?

Will the lacrosse community respond?

It seems that the Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association is aware of this proposal and is preparing to push back.  The 2014 IMLCA Coaches Pre-Convention Survey included your typical questions about shot clock, assistant coaches, support staffing etc...but also included 3 survey questions specific to what facilities and resources a team shared with their schools soccer program. The IMLCA should absolutely push back on this proposal, and coaches should take the time to go to their ADs and discuss concerns about how their program would be negatively affected by such a proposal.  The IMLCA should also consider a counter proposal where if soccer is to become a year-round sport, than so should lacrosse.  Instead of making fall ball a 'scrimmage' season, make the games count, take a break in thanksgiving, and pick up again in March.  Why is it ok for soccer to go year-round but not lacrosse?

Could this really happen?

It depends on who you ask.  There is certainly guarded optimism among some coaches in collegiate soccer circles that the proposal is picking up steam and looks like it will be reviewed by the NCAA. Regardless, it is still an uphill battle for soccer.  In addition to the infrastructure and logistical challenges we've already touched upon, we must remember that soccer (like lacrosse) is a non-revenue sport.  It will be difficult to expect athletic departments, many of which are already cash-strapped to begin with, to add more practices, more games, and possibly more support staff, to maintain soccer year-round.  Especially when one considers that many of the NCAAs recent student-athlete welfare proposals have involved discussions about lessening practice times for athletes, it seems unlikely the governing body would agree to increase practices times for one particular sport. There is also no talk of applying any of these changes to Women's Soccer, which may not sit well with the gender equity conscious NCAA.  John Infante, an expert on NCAA bylaws recently stated that while soccer's plan is reasonable and well considered "It has virtually zero change of being enacted" We'll just have to wait and see.

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