When I was at Purdue one of my first video projects in my production classes was on the history of lacrosse. My partner was James Reidy, who was a coach with the men's club team. Back then it was a niche club sport at Purdue. Now, it is a big-time club sport that could be on the verge of varsity status.
Since the Big Ten recently announced that it is forming a lacrosse conference for both men and women, plus adding Johns Hopkins for that sport, I reached out to the club team to see about Purdue's chances of upgrad9ing to the varsity level.This is in conjunction with the series on improving the athletic department as a whole, and current coach Trevor Rainville was happy to write about the current state of Purdue's program:
The possibility of NCAA D-1 Lacrosse at Purdue is highly unlikely, but is something that should be considered. There are many benefits of adding a NCAA Lacrosse program to a prestigious University like Purdue, but before discussing that possibility, we must examine the state of lacrosse in Indiana.
Indiana boast two of the top lacrosse programs in the country, in Notre Dame and Culver Academy, yet outside these two teams, Indiana lacrosse is still growing, still developing. However, the growth can be clearly seen in this past lacrosse season alone.
Indianapolis saw four of the top programs in the country (Notre Dame, Duke, UNC and Denver) face off for The NCAA Regional tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium. The roughly 8,000 in attendance, most of whom cheering on Indiana's own Notre Dame, proved that lacrosse in Indiana is just getting started.
Both Culver and Carmel enter the high school season holding top ten rakings in the Mid-West Region. Although Carmel could not complete the three-peat, their loss in the state finals shows that there other teams improving, and thus continuing growth of Indiana lacrosse.
Last, Purdue and Indiana met in the finals of the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference to determine who would go to the MCLA National Tournament. This conference has teams from Wisconsin to Arkansas, and the championship game would be played between two Indiana teams. Although the rosters are made up from players from all over the country, some of the top players for both teams are from Indiana, including the GRLC Offensive Player of the Year (Alex Eaton, Indiana University, Carmel).
In the regular season Indiana dominated Purdue, winning 13 - 5. However, after that loss Purdue won the last two games of the season and qualified for the GRLC Tournament.
The first round saw Purdue easily beat Missouri 21-9 setting up a semi-final match against Wisconsin, the overall number one. The Badgers beat the Boilermakers in a earlier contest 12 - 5, but Purdue came out with intensity and established the physical play throwing Wisconsin off their game. Jumping out to an early lead, the Boilermakers defense held Wisconsin to 7 goals, hanging on to an 8 - 7 win.
In the Conference finals, the Hoosiers were up 11 - 7 and had the momentum going into the forth quarter. But Purdue came out and scored 5 un-answered goals to take a 12 - 11 lead with just under seven minutes left in the contest. The Boilermaker defense held strong for the entire forth quarter, solidifying the 12 - 11 win, and marking the first time Purdue Lacrosse would compete in the MCLA National Championship.
With this year's success at the club level, the growth of lacrosse in Indiana, and the Big Ten adding lacrosse, there could be an argument made to make lacrosse an NCAA sport at Purdue. By the 2014-2015 season, the Big Ten will have six teams competing in the conference, which qualifies the winner of the conference an automatic bid to the NCAA National Tournament.
This addition of Rutgers, Maryland, and John Hopkins not only qualifies the Big Ten as a Conference, but alsoputs it as one of the top lacrosse conferences in the country. Both Maryland and John Hopkins have won national championships with Ohio State and Penn State as established powers competing for a national title.
This level of competition creates all sorts of opportunity for the Big Ten. The Big Ten Network would have a new source of revenue, although small at first, it could grow into something big. It opens new doors to potential student athletes from all over the countrywho would not normally consider the Big Ten. And last, it would be the first BCS Football Conference to also have lacrosse.
As a conference, the Big Ten should be looking to expand and introduce more teams into the conference, however Purdue is not becoming an NCAA D-1 program. The current program and the surrounding culture, is nowhere near where it needs to be in order to even consider making the jump.
Another aspect to consider is Title IX. If Purdue adds Men's Lacrosse, it would have to add one, if not two women's sport. This would cost a tremendous amount of money and would need years of fundraising.
Now, let's just be clear that Title IX is not holding back lacrosse from becoming an NCAA sport, and it would be crazy to make that claim. If the University really wanted to add a sport, Title IX would not be a problem. The issue is the cost of adding an expensive sport such as Men's Lacrosse. So when any one says that Title IX prevents the additions of Men's sports, they clearly do not know what they are talking about.
In order for Purdue to have NCAA Lacrosse, there must be immense pressure on the university to add lacrosse. This happens in two ways: their needs to be tremendous support from Alumni and youth/high school lacrosse needs to blow up in Indiana. Alumni can put enough pressure on the university by raising the funds necessary to add a lacrosse team, and the local lacrosse scene must have enough talent to create a solid recruiting base.
Michigan made the leap from club to NCAA with the support of Alumni, who raised millions of dollars for the team. At the same time, lacrosse has established itself in Michigan creating a solid local recruiting area.
If Purdue wants to add Lacrosse as an NCAA sport, it must be in a similar path that Michigan took. Is it possible? Of course. Is it likely? Not for a long time.
Thank you very much, Trevor!