Felician University (DII NJ) Adds Men's Lacrosse

RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Felician University will add men's lacrosse as its 14th varsity intercollegiate sport, director of athletics Ben DiNallo Jr. announced today. The program will play its inaugural season in spring of 2017. "We are very excited to add men's lacrosse to our complement of sports programs," said Felician president Dr. Anne M. Prisco.

"Lacrosse is a team sport that teaches cooperation and teamwork and develops leadership skills. Its addition will enhance student life on campus, and demonstrates Felician's commitment to offering every student an opportunity to develop his/her mind, body and spirit."

 Also on Monday, DiNallo announced that John Giunta of Pompton Plains has been named the first head coach of the Felician men's lacrosse team.

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How The West Was Won (by lacrosse)

Thanks to the addition of varsity status for women’s lacrosse at Arizona State, a Pac-12 sponsored women’s lacrosse conference is now a reality.  Division I Women’s Lacrosse has been planting the varsity seed up and down the west coast for more than 15 years, and finally these seeds have sprouted into the ultimate accomplishment, a Power-5 conference sponsorship.

Unfortunately, the men’s game has not had comparable success in rooting varsity programs on the nations west coast.  While Division I Men’s Lacrosse has seen unprecedented growth in the last 10 years, that growth has been confined to the east coast and mid-west.  The challenges for DI Men’s Lacrosse growth on the west coast are well documented.  There are the challenges associated with gender equity and adding men’s lacrosse at schools with football programs.  There are the challenges associated with funding such programs, as many schools are not willing to take the plunge without endowing a majority of a programs costs or soliciting a significant lead donor.  And finally, specific to west coast schools, there is the challenge of geography.

It’s hard to sell a varsity program to Presidents, Trustees, ADs and even sometimes recruits when every away game is a flight.  Of course it can be done, and is done with teams across many other sports.  But for lacrosse, a non-revenue sport that doesn't justify being chartered everywhere, it’s not an easy sell.  It’s not UMass Lowell deciding to go DI when every school in the America East is a bus ride away.  It means increased cost for travel and increased time away from class for the athletes.

What it comes down to is a hypothetical varsity west coast men's lacrosse program needs someone to play, however schools are faced with a daunting ‘geographic gap’ in the countries fly over states.  The below map displays the location of every new varsity men’s and women’s lacrosse program across all divisions since 2011:

While many colleges have added the sport in recent years, lacrosse in general, and especially the men’s game, has struggled to move the dial in athletic departments west of the Mississippi.  Colorado is men’s lacrosse’s western outpost, but the state is still surrounded by barren lacrosse-less regions.  

It has become clear that the men’s game will not grow on the west coast by mid-west varsity programs being added and overtime making their way to the pacific.  Men’s Lacrosse needs a west coast school or schools to act as a catalyst, a trailblazer, to be lacrosse’s own Lewis and Clark.  So which school will that be? Who is most likely to be men’s lacrosse’s own Lewis and Clark?  Since history often repeats itself let’s look at the history of Division I Women’s Lacrosse west coast growth:

DI Women's Lacrosse West Coast Varsity Programs
First Varsity Year
Arizona State
Fresno St
San Diego St
St. Mary’s
UC Davis

The four ‘founding mothers’ of west coast DI Women’s Lacrosse are Cal, Stanford, UC Davis, and St. Mary’s.  These schools have a long history of women’s lacrosse, with their successful and well organized club teams transitioning to varsity status during the mid to late 90’s.   One can also look at west coast DI Field Hockey teams, another prominently east coast sport, and see some similarities to women’s lacrosse’s west coast growth:

DI Field Hockey West Coast Varsity Programs
First Varsity Year
UC Davis

Both Cal and Stanford were catalysts for west coast sponsorship of field hockey and women’s lacrosse.  Does this mean that these two schools will someday play a role in varsity men’s lacrosse growth on the west coast?  One could argue that it is more likely than not that they will, but when that would happen is anyone's guess.  Of the two Stanford may be the best positioned and most likely west coast school to add varsity men’s lacrosse.  As a public institution Cal has challenges not faced by private schools like Stanford.  It wasn’t too long ago that Cal’s budget woes were so significant that they tried cutting multiple sports.  Stanford, on the other hand, is one of the wealthiest universities in the world, and has an endowment ($21 billion) five times the size of Cal's.  Both teams have successful MCLA teams and undoubtedly alumni willing to support a varsity move however the key would be those alumni garnering administrative support.

It's also possible that it may not even be a Pac-12 school that makes the first jump, it could be a small private school like a Pacific or St. Mary's who's resources are not hampered by football.  Or it could be a school that is not on anyone's radar.  If Arizona State Ice Hockey has taught us anything, it's that a school will ultimately sponsor a sport, no matter how outside the box, if there is a donor willing to cover the costs.  But regardless if it’s Cal or Stanford or another western school that takes this significant first step for DI Men's Lacrosse, here’s hoping that the wild west is opened up sometime in the near future.

Friday Lax Links

-Women's Pro Lacrosse League Announced....

-....Commissioner Named

-Field of Dreams; Lacrosse in Iowa (video)

-Nebraska Lacrosse in a Football (state of mind)

-Students Learning Lacrosse in Northern Arizona

-Girls Lacrosse Possible for NC High School

-Creating Chaos; the Growth of Lacrosse in Texas

-Penn State Harrisburg Considering Varsity Lacrosse

-Australian Government Increases Funding for Australia Lacrosse

-HS Lacrosse Growth in Central Texas

Ohio Valley University (DII WV) Adds Women's Lacrosse

Vienna, W. Va.— (November 9, 2015) Ohio Valley University has added NCAA Division II Women's Lacrosse to its athletic program, OVU Athletic Director Chad Porter has announced. While recruiting is currently underway, the program will officially begin competition in the spring of 2017. 

The recent addition of a women's lacrosse program on campus brings the total number of Fighting Scots women's varsity sports to seven, fourteen OVU varsity sports overall. Other women's varsity sports offered at OVU include basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball and volleyball. Former
OVU student-athlete Max Ruhl was named the head women's lacrosse coach this past summer.

"I'm excited about the addition of women's lacrosse and I am looking forward to Coach Ruhl building a successful program, both on and off the field," said Porter.

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Chowan University (DII NC) Adds Men's Lacrosse

MURFREESBORO- Chowan University continues to provide competitive athletic opportunities with the official addition of men's lacrosse for the 2016-17 academic year. The search for Chowan's first men's lacrosse coach concluded with the hiring of Jim Griffin, who eagerly accepted the challenge of implementing the Hawks' first recruiting class.

"I am very excited to begin men's lacrosse here at Chowan University. The academic programs,

facilities, and moral culture make this a homerun for men's lacrosse. The University sits in great proximity to lacrosse hotbeds in every direction….and will offer an ideal environment for student-athletes at the NCAA Division II level," Griffin stated. Vice President/Director of Athletics, Ozzie McFarland added, "I believe we have found the perfect person to start our men's lacrosse program…one who has already started two programs. Jim has strong ties to North Carolina…He will be an excellent addition to our staff and should help us meet our goal of being one of the best lacrosse programs in the region". "I look forward to contacting lacrosse players around the United States to tell them about this great institution and inviting them to part of something special here at Chowan," Griffin added.

With the addition of men's lacrosse, Chowan's athletic department supports 18 athletic teams with eight men's programs and ten women's programs as well as a co-ed cheerleading team.

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Quick Hits:

-NCAA: Sport Sponsorship Report Shows Lacrosse Growth

-'Spread the Lax' Grows the Game in New Jersey

-Hampton AD Interview About Going D1

-Lacrosse Moms Hope to Grow the Game in Wallaceburg, CA

-Lacrosse is the Fastest Growing Sport with Top Graduation Rates

-Creighton Lacrosse Makes Most of Limited Resources

-Buckly, WA Club Gets Grant to Grow Lacrosse

-Has Major League Lacrosse Improved After 15 Years?