Lacrosse fans were treated to a thrilling championship game over Memorial Day Weekend when Virginia defeated Maryland, 17-16. Could the fastest-growing college sport in America be used to drive a move by DU to the West Coast Conference (WCC)? Denver could leverage their national lacrosse reputation as the “Lacrosse Capital of the West” to kickstart D1 men’s college lacrosse while gaining membership in the West Coast Conference. Their ally in a proposal to join the WCC could be Seattle University, a non-football outlier in the football-centric Western Athletic Conference (WAC). The Seattle Redhawks already field men’s and women’s club lacrosse and, like DU, are a private school outlier in their conference. A commitment by Seattle to add D1 lacrosse and a joint appeal by the two schools to WCC Commissioner Gloria Nevarez could be the key to unlock membership for both schools.
A decent revenue-producing men’s basketball program has always been the biggest barrier to Denver’s membership in the WCC. However, the addition of football to the current WAC conference leaves only a handful of non-football conferences. Lacrosse can fill the football gap at a much smaller price tag. The profile of lacrosse is a perfect fit for the universities in the West Coast Conference. Add the fact that the western states are now a fertile recruiting ground for D1 lacrosse programs from around the country, the time is right.
Sure, DU needs to demonstrate they have tangible plans in place to improve on the basketball court but proving the value of lacrosse to Nevarez may be enough to turn the tide in addition to a full menu of high achieving programs and DU’s status as the #1 Director’s Cup school in the nation. DU could be a pioneer in bringing Division I men’s lacrosse to California. And surely, DU women’s lacrosse would be a compelling asset for these WCC peer schools as well. Invite Nevarez to campus and show her the facilities and the benefits of collegiate lacrosse with 12.6 scholarships with an average of 48 players per side with most full pay student-athletes. The sport is an ideal fit for the WCC’s private University mix which easily aligns with the University of Denver.
Denver basketball will never be Gonzaga but a potential Gonzaga lacrosse will never be Denver. By going hand-in-hand with Seattle University with a commitment to grow D1 lacrosse in the west, the WCC could become an instant power in the fastest growing sport in America while adding the key metropolitan cities of Seattle and Denver.
A bold move such as this would surely be supported by legendary DU head coach Bill Tierney, a proponent of growing the game of lacrosse across the western US. He could play a central role in the presentation to Nevarez and member schools and this would be a perfect capstone to his remarkable career.
There may never be a better time than now to use the fastest-growing sport in America to propose such a move. And, why not work with Seattle to open the door for membership.