Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Glass Ceiling for Lax?

Paul Mirengoff has started following college lacrosse and now laments that that the game's popularity is expanding at the high school level, but that more college teams aren't being added because of Title IX:

As the Post also notes, however, the game is not expanding at the college level. Despite high school talent that is probably at least twice as deep as it was 10 or 20 years ago, the number of college men's lacrosse program has remained basically the same.

The Post doesn't explore the reasons for this, but Title IX must be the main culprit.

Galley Brother and lax superstar B.J. could probably evaluate this better than I can, but let me take a stab anyway.

Title IX is an abomination and should be taken off the books. That said, I'm not sure it's responsible for the lack of growth in college lax programs because while the number of Div. I programs hasn't grown significantly over the last 20 years, the number of serious Div. I programs has exploded.

Ten of fifteen years ago, nearly every Div. I lax program was in the national Top 25 because there weren't that many of them (I'm not going to look up the number because it's not essential to the argument). And within that Top 25, there were only really two or three serious programs: Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, and depending on the year, either Princeton or Maryland.

If you were even a moderately competent high school player, you could get a spot on whoever the 17th ranked team in the country was (Hofstra, maybe, or Delaware). There was no depth in the college game. There was no other Div. I varsity sport where you could be a mediocre player and still find a roster spot on a school somewhere.

But in recent years, as more and more high school kids have started to play lax, you've seen more and more Div. I programs become serious teams that can realistically compete at the championship level: Loyola, Duke, Georgetown, UNC, Navy, Notre Dame, Cornell, UVA, UMBC. Heck, this year Albany was a contender and Delaware went to the Final Four!

Since this is the first time that there's been enough talent to spread to more than two or three schools, I'd argue that college lacrosse is only just now becoming a normal, healthy varsity sport (instead of an exaggerated club activity). That's good for the game. And I think you could argue that, for now, there isn't any reason why there should be an explosion of varsity programs at the college level.


Anonymous said...

"There was no other Div. I varsity sport where you could be a mediocre player and still find a roster spot on a school somewhere."

Varsity crew. It's the big, warm body syndome.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget fencing and women's lax.