November 8, 2013

Examining Division I Men's Lacrosse's Growth Spurt

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Marquette went 5-8 in its first season last year, the second best debut season of a Division I men's program in the last five seasons. Only Jacksonville's 6-7 campaign in 2010 was better.
© Marc Piscotty

After nearly a decade of stagnant program growth at the NCAA Division I level — in spring 2000 there were 55 men's lacrosse teams and in 2008 that number had only risen to 56 with two additions and one subtraction — the last six seasons have seen at least one program added, and this spring four — Boston University, Furman, Monmouth and Richmond — will each play inaugural seasons.

It's the steepest Division I men's growth since the NCAA started its annual participation report in 1981; three teams were added between the 1992 and 1993 seasons, and three again between 1999 and 2000.

With Thursday's news that the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) is looking for a coach (the job posting can be found here if you're interested) and targeting a spring 2015 start date for a D-I program, that means there will be 69 teams by 2015. And counting.

Each new program has sprouted within its own set of circumstances, and taken different approaches to building to its inaugural season. Here's a look at each in this mini-era of consistent growth.

(It's also important to keep in mind that while Division I men's may be the highest profile of the game at the college level, the most rapid NCAA growth continues to happen on the women's side and in the small college ranks. Just this year, the number of Division I women's teams reached 100, and the number of Division III women's programs grew from 215 to 240, and the number of Division III men's teams went from 188 to 207. In all, women's lacrosse added 40 teams and men's lacrosse 26 teams, making the sport the nation's fastest growing in both genders.)

2009

DETROIT MERCY

Current total enrollment: 5,231
Announced they were adding in: 2007
How they've done: 20-52 overall
Coach: Matt Holtz (five seasons)
Conference: MAAC
News of note: The Titans were the first new Division I men's program since 2005 when they took the field for the first time on Feb. 7, 2009, against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio. The Buckeyes won that game, 21-1... After a season dealing with injuries and playing with one of the youngest rosters in Division I, Detroit went on a Cinderella run through the 2013 MAAC tournament, winning it as the fourth seed. They went on to push Notre Dame to the brink in a first round NCAA tournament game, falling 9-7. Bonus: the program ended up on Lacrosse Magazine's November "Gym Rats" cover.

2010

JACKSONVILLE

Current total enrollment: 3,741
Announced they were adding in: 2008
How they've done: 25-29 (four seasons)
Coach: Guy Van Arsdale (August 2011-present); Matt Kerwick (2010 and 2011)
Conference: Atlantic Sun, previously MAAC and independent
News of note: They didn't know it then, but Jacksonville would become one of five recent start-ups to comprise the all-new Atlantic Sun men's lacrosse conference (See the other four below). Last year's 8-5, 5-1 campaign was the Dolphins best yet. Their 6-7 inaugural campaign was the best of any on this list.

2011

MERCER

Current total enrollment: 8,300
Announced they were adding in: 2009
How they've done: 6-33 (three seasons)
Coach: Kyle Hannan (Aug. 2012-present), Jason Childs (2011 and 2012)
Conference: Atlantic Sun, previously independent
News of note: Mercer is the first NCAA Division I team in Georgia. It went 4-8 last year under Hannan after going 2-25 in Childs' two seasons at the helm.

2012

MICHIGAN

Current total enrollment: 43,426
Announced they were adding in: 2011
How they've done: 2-26 (two seasons)
Coach: John Paul
Conference: ECAC, headed to Big Ten in 2015
News of note: Michigan elevated its club team in a quick transition situation, announcing in May of 2011 that it would be going varsity for the next season, so really a couple months considering fall ball. Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon called lacrosse "a sport of the future." In this span of growth, Michigan is the only BCS school to add the men's sport.

2013

HIGH POINT

Current total enrollment: 4,500
Announced they were adding in: 2010
How they've done: 3-12 (one season)
Coach: Jon Torpey
Conference: Atlantic Sun, previously independent
News of note: The Panthers took time building their program with a roughly three-year gap between the decision to add and its first game. It sure paid off, with High Point beating Towson in its second game of the season last year. The Panthers other two wins were against Michigan and Mercer.

MARQUETTE

Current total enrollment: 12,000
Announced they were adding in: 2010
How they've done: 5-8 (one season)
Coach: Joe Amplo
Conference: Big East, previously independent
News of note: Marquette took a similar approach to High Point in creating its roster, as well as taking a bunch of transfers. The school announced in December of 2010 it was adding men's and women's lacrosse. Coach Joe Amplo, who was hired three months later away from Hofstra (although he still coached the 2011 season there), recruited his inaugural class to the Wisconsin campus a year early and the team went through fall ball and a spring without any outside competition before debuting last season as an independent. The Golden Eagles beat Air Force, Mercer, High Point, Detroit and Bellarmine in their inaugural season. A member of the Big East starting this year.

Boston University is one of four programs to debut this year, a record number since the NCAA particpation report began in 1981.
© Bill Danielewski 

2014

BOSTON UNIVERSITY

Current total enrollment: 29,935
Announced they were adding in: 2012
Coach: Ryan Polley
Conference: Patriot League
News of note: Polley, hired after several successful seasons as Yale's defensive coordinator, surveyed start-up programs of the recent past, like High Point, Michigan and Marquette, and took bits and pieces while building the Terriers. BU followed the model of bringing in a big freshman class (31) with a few transfers sprinkled in for its first season. BU also had open tryouts and added five members from BU's club team. "The plan was to build a program. That was something we never lost focus of. It's easy to get caught up in building a team for one year," Polley said. The Terriers head to Mercer for their first regular-season game on Feb. 8.

FURMAN

Current total enrollment: 2,800
Announced they were adding in: 2012
Coach: Richie Meade
Conference: Atlantic Sun
News of note: Furman made the highest profile coaching hire of this bunch, holding a press conference during championship weekend in 2012 in Foxborough, Mass. They hired Meade, the former long-time Navy coach who at that point had also been hired as Team USA coach. Furman initially said it planned to start play in 2015, but after hiring Meade, bumped the start date to 2014. "There's a lot of challenges ahead, but that's OK," Meade said this fall.

MONMOUTH

Current total enrollment: 6,500
Announced they were adding in: 2012
Coach: Brian Fisher
Conference: MAAC
News of note: Monmouth hired Fisher from Notre Dame, where he was the Fighting Irish's second assistant and worked in South Bend for six seasons. At the time of the announcement saying Monmouth was going D-I, the school was in the NEC, but it debuts this year in the MAAC.

RICHMOND

Current total enrollment: 4,361
Announced they were adding in: 2012
Coach: Dan Chemotti
Conference: Atlantic Sun
News of note: Richmond was probably the move controversial addition, with men's lacrosse being added in step with the school dropping men's soccer and men's track and public outcry against the latter moves. The Spiders debuted as a varsity program this fall, falling to Towson in its first scrimmage at the Play for Parkinson's event in Virginia. Their first roster includes 24 true freshmen, seven sophomores and four juniors. Chemotti was hired after winning a national title with Loyola as an assistant. The Spiders first real game is a tough one against ACC foe Virginia.

For 2015

UMASS-LOWELL

Current total enrollment: 16,969
Announced they were adding in: 2013
Coach:
Ed Stephenson
Conference:
America East
News of note:
UMass-Lowell previously had a men's program that was discontinued in 1989. As part of a school-wide move to the America East and Division I in all sports starting this fall, UMass-Lowell announced in February it was adding men's and women's lacrosse. Former UMBC assistant Stephenson is coach. He also started up the program at Binghamton in 2004.

NJIT

Current total enrollment: 9,944
Announced they were adding in: 2013
Coach: TBD
Conference: TBD
News of note: This nascent program will get a late start on building its inaugural team as fellow 2015 start-up UMass-Lowell announced it was adding in February, and hired a coach in late July, and even that was considered late timing considering the recruiting calendar.


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