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February 23, 2009

Dodging a Bullet

by Brian Logue | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

On Friday night we received a rather ominously titled e-mail from the University of Vermont that read - "UVM Athletic Department Announces Reorganization."

My first thought was that I was going to read that the school was dropping its varsity men's lacrosse program. Fortunately, for those of us that love the sport, that wasn't the case. Some other sports weren't so lucky. In order to erase a projected $1.1 million budget deficit for the 2009-2010 academic year, the school elected to cut its baseball and softball program in an attempt to save money.

So, Division I men's lacrosse dodged the bullet in this case, but it's hardly over. With the current fears about the economy, and the very real economic challenges colleges are facing, this is almost assuredly not the last time we're going to hear about a school dropping programs in the coming months.

There has been some nice forward momentum in the growth of Division I men's lacrosse recently. Hobart reversed a decision to go back to Division III last spring. Detroit Mercy is in the midst of its first varsity season, and Jacksonville comes on board next year. But the 60 programs playing the sport at the highest level are hardly on a stable foundation. No BCS-football playing school has added the sport since Notre Dame in the early 1980s. Butler dropped its program prior to the 2007 season, and given the current economic landscape, others could be in danger.

Unfortunately, this scenario is going to result in additional pressure on coaches to win, and win now. In the press release announcing the Vermont decision, among the four objectives cited for sports they chose to keep was the opportunity for competitive success.

That's pretty much a no-brainer, but some of the programs that have been historically under-funded are the ones most likely in peril now because they haven't had the success on the field. If a school is looking at cutting a program, it's a lot easier sell to drop a team that's sitting at 0-10 versus one that's winning games.

Here's hoping there are no more bullets to dodge, but it's hard to expect that this spring will be a smooth ride. 


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