According to an article in Today’s U Sports Despite Utah News, Potential New Lacrosse Programs Face Roadblocks, DU’s trademarked ‘Lacrosse Capital of the West’ slogan will remain both symbolic and real over the immediate term.
The article posits that while a number of schools, particularly in the east, will be moving up to women’s and men’s Division I lacrosse across the country, there isn’t likely to be a mass outbreak of new Power Five (PAC 12, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, and SEC) members adding lax anytime soon. The reason? Money and Title IX requirements which stipulate athletic teams mirror the student body male and female composition which, essentially, puts the lid on expansion for many schools – with the exception of Utah which has made their intentions clear to add men’s DI lacrosse to their sports menu.
While Utah may be the first to get men’s lacrosse going in the Pac-12, the focus at this point for the conference is adding women’s lacrosse teams. “Arizona State is adding women’s lacrosse in 2018, joining Cal, Stanford, USC, Colorado and Oregon. The Sun Devils are adding men’s hockey, too, making it nearly impossible to add another large men’s program.
“The additional women’s lacrosse programs could make it especially difficult to for any of those schools add a men’s team and meet Title IX requirements. Even in Denver, where Major League Lacrosse is popular and the Denver Pioneers won an NCAA title, the Colorado Buffaloes — situated in nearby Boulder — might not be in position to add a men’s team.”
Another outlier in the west may be BYU which is flush with cash and would be a willing partner for Utah and well as Denver-area foes. However, they seem to be focused more on football and potential, though seemingly unlikely admittance into the Big 12 for football – so most of their public attention is focused on that issue at this time.
The most unusual entrant may be Grand Canyon University. Currently a member of the WAC, GCU is the only for-profit school participating in Division I. Continued expansion of their Phoenix campus with new dorms and improved athletic facilities show the school is trying to attract more conventional students and offer a more traditional college experience. Lacrosse may provide them with a branding opportunity to move away from the online, for-profit model of operation.
Frequent LetsGoDU commenter “cddunks” has suggested that men’s lacrosse may be an ideal sport for the West Coast Conference, which is a possible long-term conference landing spot for the Pioneers. Of course, this may require the elimination of baseball, a costly sport with big rosters and a lot of travel. Still, California is a baseball hotbed so it’s uncertain if the schools would truly consider adding men’s lacrosse.
So while it looks like there will be some growth going forward for lacrosse, growth west of the Mississippi will likely mostly involve women’s lacrosse.