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Big Ten Lacrosse - Should Minnesota Join The Lax Club?

Is it even feasible to add another non-rev sport from a financial perspective?


I'm not sure if you've heard or not, but the B1G is adding men's and women's lacrosse for the 2014 season and beyond.

Big Ten competition in both sports will feature Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers, with Johns Hopkins participating in men's lacrosse and Northwestern competing in women's lacrosse. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.

The decision for the B1G is actually a pretty easy one once Maryland joins the fold. It adds a flagship program on the men's side (seriously, Hopkins lacrosse is a monster) and provides balance to a sport that was already going to have a women's side. It also allows Maryland to continue their rivalry with Hopkins without issue and expands the B1G footprint on the eastern seaboard in a sport many people in that neck of the woods care about. But perhaps most importantly, it allows the conference to add Johns Hopkins into the CIC, which is a big deal from the academic side of things. And given all they had to do to get that academic/brand boost was allow Hopkins to come into the fold for lacrosse only (with what I can only assume is very minor revenue sharing) it's a steal for the B1G.

So, the conference is officially adding lacrosse for the men and the women. What does that mean for the Gophers? Nothing probably. However, you may recall reading this earlier in the year:

On potentially adding or cutting from the list of 25 Gophers sports teams: "There could be a time that could change, but I think it would be more of an addition than subtraction. ... [Adding lacrosse] is mentioned all the time. We'll look at it, but it doesn't mean it will happen any time soon."

Rumors of Hopkins coming to the B1G in lacrosse were already swirling by this point. So was Norwood tipping his hand? My guess is no. Given everything he wants to accomplish at Minnesota, the last thing he needs right now is another non-rev program to contend with. But I do think it's something that might be revisited in a few years once the facilities stuff has (hopefully) worked itself out.

The reasons for adding the sport are solid. The Twin Cities is home to the Minnesota Swarm (professional lacrosse team playing in the National Lacrosse League) that plays in the Xcel Center. They averaged over 9K fans per game (announced) last season, which doesn't strike me as lagging or low attendance given the under the radar position they have in the general sporting populace's mind. The MSHSL has 62 schools across the state (ok, mostly across the TC metro) that offer the sport for boys, and 66 schools that offer it for girls. Additional teams participate in the Minnesota Boys Scholastic Lacrosse Association (MBSLA).

I'm a complete noob on the lax front, but seemingly the support would be there to bring the Gophers up from club level to NCAA competition (UPDATE: Link to club team page via commenter and U lax alum SamSquatch). Enough to actually compete? That would depend on the talent, and that's something I can't answer. But the point is that such a move wouldn't be completely out of character for a sport that has pretty strong participation in the metro area.

That said, I stand by my original opinion that I don't think there is any reason to add lacrosse right now. The two primary money generating sports need further investment to succeed and to continue to generate revenue while the third (hockey) can't be completely ignored for a decade. If the U is able to properly fund the needs of these programs plus a little extra and add women's (and possibly men's) lacrosse down the road? Then maybe the U should go for it. But given the issues the U already faces and the nearly constant calls from some quarters to cut support for existing non-revs I see such a move as a hard sell. Especially if the new lax teams would require a facilities investment. And while I love the successes of any Gopher sports, I'm not sure what such a move would gain the U other than 1 or 2 more programs to support from the budget.

Since I'm such a novice in the MN (and wider) lacrosse world, I'm hoping some of you all can school me.

Is there something I'm missing? A reason why the U should be looking hard at adding lacrosse as a varsity sport?

Or should they stand pat and simply take the academic benefits of having Johns Hopkins in the CIC?