Simon Fraser Keeping Eye on Varsity Status
With Simon Fraser completing its Division II membership in good standing with the NCAA, the Clansmen were accepted as an active member – the first Canadian school to gain entrance into the exclusive domain of U.S. institutions. It's a ground-breaking step for Fraser, which is located in Burnaby, B.C. (a suburb of Vancouver).
Fraser has been a staple in the MCLA from the onset of the organization. The Clansmen participated in the inaugural championships in 1997 and have participated in 10 of the 16 national tournaments, including a trip to the title game in '99. With SFU's move to Division II, what does this portend for the men's lacrosse program?
"Lacrosse has become a high profile sport at Simon Fraser and we are very much on the radar of the school administration," emailed Brent Hoskins, Fraser's head coach. "We are very fortunate as a program to receive tremendous support from both our athletics and recreation departments, as well as other departments and faculties throughout the university. As a program, we meet with [athletic director Milton] Richards regularly and while the topic of lacrosse potentially following our other athletic teams does come up regularly, we have a shared opinion that the MCLA currently provides the best fit for our men's lacrosse team."
Any potential move by Fraser lacrosse to the NCAA will most likely be determined by the western growth in D-II as opposed to any internal readiness to make the jump.
"It will be more dependent on the continued growth of lacrosse at the (NCAA) Division II level out west and expansion of the (NCAA) DII National Championship Tournament, which would hopefully better align the logistics of a potential move with the overall goals of our program and experience that we want to provide our student-athletes," said Hoskins. "We will definitely still benefit from the increased focus on athletics and additional resources that a move to the NCAA will provide. With the exception of the majority of our operating budget remaining self-funded, we will also continue to operate under a 'virtual varsity' model, where our student-athletes are already held to the same high standards as an NCAA program."
It appears, for the time being, that Fraser will continue its participation in the MCLA, which provides the Clansmen an automatic qualifier to the national tournament (via the PNCLL) and access to premium competition. This year's schedule includes non-conference opponents Chico State, Colorado, Virginia Tech (at Colorado) and defending national champion Colorado State. SFU will also travel to the Midwest to face Michigan State, Davenport and Illinois.
Still, the possibility of moving to the NCAA at a future date has its allure.
"The main benefit that a move to NCAA Division II would provide is that I do think that having the 'NCAA label' would allow us to attract more Canadian student-athletes who are currently going south purely to play NCAA lacrosse when they could stay closer to home and receive a high quality education at Canada's top comprehensive university," said Hoskins.
Hoskins and the Clansmen currently have more pressing issues than a potential jump to the NCAA.
SFU missed the national tournament for the second straight year – the first time that has happened since the '06-'07 campaigns. While the Clansmen have consistently played one of the top schedules in the country, they have gone a combined 18-16 the past two seasons, including stunning losses to Boise State and Oregon State last spring.
During the current malaise, Fraser has had a roster loaded with talented players, but impossibly thin to realistically endure the MCLA grind, which can often times feature three games in a weekend. The '11 team yielded just 19 total players and last year featured only 27.
It's been a point of emphasis for Hoskins heading into the '13 campaign.
"This has been by far our most successful year in terms of recruiting and we are looking forward to adding what promises to be one of our most talented recruiting classes, and largest, in program history," he said. "Last season, we made the decision to add the position of operations coordinator to our men's lacrosse staff and [former player] Luke Genereux has done a tremendous job in working with our recruitment coordinator in the admissions office to ensure that we are able to do an effective job of recruiting top lacrosse student-athletes from across Canada, with an increased focus on also recruiting student-athletes from throughout the US. We currently have 21 student-athletes admitted for this fall with the potential for an additional 27 returners so it is likely that we will have a regular season roster in the range of 36-40 athletes, which will be considerably larger and deeper than any roster that we have had in the past."
The increased numbers will also be helpful if and when Simon Fraser decides its lacrosse team is ready to transition to NCAA Division II.