Marquette Beats Michigan to the Punch
by Paul Krome | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | updated
12.17.10 at 10:05 a.m.
|Marquette will fully fund its new lacrosse programs, which did not surprise Rutgers men's coach Jim Stagnitta, who said the Big East Conference requires "commitment and competitiveness."|
Rumors have been circulating that a well-known NCAA Division I institution in the Midwest, whose name begins with an "M," will soon announce its intention to sponsor a varsity lacrosse program.
That day came today, although it wasn't quite the "M" name many have anticipated.
Marquette University announced Thursday that it will add varsity men's and women's lacrosse programs for the 2013 season. It represents another boost to the sport, not long after the University of Southern California announced it would add a varsity women's program.
Marquette may not have the same national recognition as either USC or the University of Michigan — the "M" school that is considering elevating at least one of its competitive club programs to varsity status — but the Milwaukee-based private institution is a full-fledged member of the Big East Conference and offers a strong academic profile.
"It's great news," said Ricky Fried, head women's coach at Big East rival Georgetown and of the U.S. team. "The more teams we have as full members of the conference, the better it is for our sport and our league. It helps to position the Big East as one of the leading conferences in the lacrosse community as far as growth, and logistically Marquette will provide us with a travel partner with Notre Dame."
After competing as an independent in the 2013 season, Marquette will join the Big East, giving the conference eight teams in men's lacrosse and 10 in women's lacrosse, the latter including associate member Loyola.
"When the Big East Conference decided to sponsor men's lacrosse, it was done with the hope that it would initiate growth in the sport," said Jim Stagnitta, head men's coach at Big East member Rutgers. "This is a big step. One of the goals for the league was to be the impetus for teams to pick up the sport, and it's great to see that one year in."
It also provides a growing lacrosse community in Wisconsin with the state's first NCAA Division I programs. US Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body, includes a Wisconsin Chapter that boasts 2,609 members.
"It's very exciting news for the Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation to hear that Marquette University, a strong NCAA Division I university, is starting men's and women's lacrosse programs," said Dave Wollin, president of the Wisconsin Lacrosse Federation, a regional chapter of US Lacrosse. "Although Wisconsin enjoys competitive lacrosse in over 20 colleges and universities at the club and D-III levels, having our first D-I program shows the growth of lacrosse in our state. We look forward to supporting MU with a growing and competitive lacrosse community at the high school and youth levels throughout Wisconsin."
"With Marquette joining the ranks as a varsity sport, that makes four varsity lacrosse programs for men in a 40-mile radius — Division III teams at Milwaukee School of Engineering, Concordia, and Carthage," said Robin Buckley, past president of the WLF and a longtime supporter of lacrosse in Wisconsin. "This will change the face of the game in the area as it will attract more transfers, and it will put Milwaukee on the map as a destination for lacrosse"
Marquette will fully fund both programs per NCAA scholarship and staffing provisions, an aspect that did not surprise Stagnitta.
"There are certain minimums that must be met in the Big East. A school can't add a sport with a part-time coach and just play non-scholarship ball for a couple years. There must be commitment and competitiveness — the program has to prove it will be around for a while," he said.
The Big East will crown its second men's lacrosse champion in 2011 based on regular-season league standings. The league's inaugural four-team championship tournament will begin in 2012. The Big East has conducted a women's lacrosse championship tournament for several years.
"Lacrosse is on TV more, and it's the fastest-growing youth sport," Stagnitta said. "There's also value in diversity of sport offerings for a university and the opportunity to compete on a national level. Those are some compelling reasons to add lacrosse."
Reasons Marquette's neighbor to the east would be wise to consider.