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NCAA D1 Lax Expansion Candidate – Richmond

1 - Published December 20, 2011 by in Growth, MCLA, NCAA

After looking at a pair of school in the Golden State, let’s return to the more familiar territory of the Old Dominion.  Despite being home to the current NCAA Champions and a collection of D3 programs, the Commonwealth falls short in the D1 lax category.  Considering the number of D1 schools available, this is somewhat shocking.

Richmond

Most casual college sports fans, and probably many lacrosse fans, are unfamiliar with the University of RichmondThe Spiders lack the athletic history of the Cavaliers and Hokies.  The 2010 season was the first time the Spiders made the NCAA basketball tournament this century.  The school’s football team won the 2008 FCS national Championship.

Richmond currently sponsors 17 varsity sports, only 7 of which are for men.  Since the Spiders compete at the FCS level rather than the FBS level, they are limited to a maximum of 63 scholarships versus 85 at the higher level.  As is the case with schools in the Colonial Athletic Association, Ivy League, Patriot League, and Northeast Conference this can make adding a new men’s sport somewhat easier.  Having women’s lacrosse already in place also helps.

Carry this rivalry over the men!

This season marks the Spiders’ first in the MCLA.  Their schedule is strong, but not unmanageable with several winnable games awaiting them.  A lot of the Spiders’ successes and failures will rest upon the coaching staff and how well they transitioned the returning players from the true club league NCLL to the tougher virtual varsity MCLA.  Last year Richmond finished 27 out of 118 teams, which is not too shabby.  It was a respectable step in the program’s development process.

Benefits of Varsity Status

As a varsity club, Richmond’s lacrosse program is able to compete on a higher level and to enjoy many of the benefits of a varsity athletic program.

The club hopes to be in a position to:

  • Elevate the team from the National College Lacrosse League (NCLL), in which it now competes, to the more competitive Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA), which hosts a national championship
  • Provide a full-time experienced, successful coach and an athletic training staff
  • Provide safe and efficient travel
  • Provide the team with proper equipment and uniforms
  • Provide the opportunity to evaluate the impact of a competitive men’s lacrosse program on student recruitment and alumni support and to explore potential for NCAA-level competition

Last April, athletic Director Jim Miller spoke about the transition of lacrosse from true club to varsity club (MCLA) and its possible/eventual role as a varsity (NCAA) sport:

Q: What is your guys position with the Men’s varsity club lacrosse team right now? Any chance they become varsity soon?

JM: Right now we aren’t really involved with it. They’re registered under Recreation and Wellness and there are some fund raising activities going on to see the level of support for the program. I think that the athletic department is doing a new strategic plan now and hopefully that will be approved by the board of trustees on Friday, April 22nd. The status of that sport I think is kind of a “wait and see” to see if it whether its going to a varsity NCAA sport on campus or remain a club sport for a while.

This plan seems comparable to the paths followed by Marquette and Michigan, only made public.  By being continually transparent, Miller is generating excitement on campus and with potential students.  Just knowing that the school is actively involved with the MCLA team and is evaluating a move to D1 is enough to draw laxers to the school.

Hiring a top notch coach like Glenn Carter helps too:

Glenn has been coaching at the highest levels for the past 16 years. Most recently, he was head coach of Ursinus College and has coached at the professional level for the Philadelphia Barrage. Prior to arriving at Ursinus, Carter served as the head assistant for the Neumann College Knights. There he helped lead the Knights to the 1999 ECAC South Region Championship. Carter was also a standout defenseman for the Knights as a player. Glenn has also served as a Head Varsity Coach for the Friends Central School in PA, sending many young men to top Division I, II and III colleges and universities. Glenn also serves as director for Black Bear Lacrosse. Black Bear operates many instructional camps around the country as well as operating travel teams that serve the Philadelphia Metro area and help to get many student athletes the opportunity to get noticed by Colleges and Universities. Glenn was a key speaker at the 2005 US Lacrosse National Convention as well as also serving as a traveling clinician for US Lacrosse assisting in developing lacrosse in “new” areas for both coaches and players.

With a proven coach already at the helm, the team is poised to make a smooth transition a la Michigan.  Although his collegiate coaching experience is at the D3 level, his experience should help him work with a corp of “passed over” recruits as he builds the initial varsity team.  As the team matures, Carter will grow as a D1 coach.  Given enough time to build a competitive roster, he could mold the Spiders into a competitive threat and a credible instate rival to the Cavaliers.

Imagine if the laxers came onto the field like this! Also, check the sick helmets

As of right now, Robins Stadium is the only suitable venue that I’ve identified.  Considering the role lacrosse would have in the athletic department’s portfolio, Robins is most likely the school’s top choice anyway.  Lacrosse would allow the school to make better utilization of the new facility (opened September 2010).  The utilization of Field Turf and the 8700 seat capacity are ideal for lax.

Given their current trajectory, Richmond will most likely add lacrosse by the 2015 season.  In three years the private school should have accumulated a sufficient donor base and built relationships with equipment suppliers.  Broaching the subject of fall ball and/or preseason games against the Cavaliers could help build additional momentum to get the team on the ground running.

The Spiders' current entrance is pretty freaking sweet though...

That is impressive

As an interesting side note, the University of Richmond is the only school in the country with a Spider as a mascot.

Best deployment of the tramp stamp logo ever

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