A Manifest Destiny: Lacrosse's Success Rides on Non-Traditional Areas
A highly underground—something like a cult—movement has taken a hold of the sport of college lacrosse in recent years.
Despite a lack of extensive coverage and support from universities, NCAA lacrosse is becoming a fan favorite. The Final Four of men's lacrosse, which takes place on Memorial Day Weekend, is always one of the most attended college championships annually. 41,935 witnessed Monday's classic championship between winner Syracuse and Cornell.
Viewership is increasing, the amount of teams is rising, and the number of high school students choosing to play lacrosse over the traditional sports is surging upward.
These followers believe lacrosse is an up-and-coming sport destined to reach the popularity level of college basketball.
This will not happen if the sport can now show success in unfamiliar territories.
More and more kids are playing for high school lacrosse teams in the spring. Despite this, only few recruiting grounds remain fertile. Long Island, Upstate New York and the Virginia/Baltimore areas provide the majority of talent in Division I lacrosse.
Not surprisingly, the only teams that play on a consistent championship level come from these areas. Only four teams—Syracuse, Virginia, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins—have won a National Championship in the last 17 years.
As it is right now, the talent level for lacrosse is not deep enough to have a highly- competitive 57-team league. The traditional champions will continue to win and the NCAA Tournament will continue to be filled by the regular teams.
It is fun to see rivals duke it out for the top spot, but it's variability that provides more storylines and increased viewership. It's hard for fans outside of Durham, Charlottesville and Central NY to get committed to following the sport if they know it'll be the same old story year after year.
It's even harder if you live out west or down south and have absolutely no team to root for. Efforts have been made to increase the amount of teams and players in these areas rich in football and baseball competition. Nonetheless, the only two Division I teams out west are Air Force and Denver.
So a Manifest Destiny of sorts needs to take place. The leaders of lacrosse should make it their duty to spread their exciting sport to untapped areas. It is a tough time to convince schools, many of which are eliminating teams, to add a new one.
But to become a sport with national prominence, it needs to migrate from it's comfortable home-states of New York, Maryland, and Virginia. There are now many high schoolers playing lacrosse in California, especially in the northern part of the state.
A powerful college program would do wonders in an area like this. No one in California wants to root for Syracuse do they? Hell, I am tired of seeing seeing the same Orange win championship after championship.
Give me new blood.
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