There’s a lot going on in the world of sports that I don’t follow and that I don’t feel knowledgeable to talk about, especially on here. One of those things is lacrosse. Purdue doesn’t have a university sanctioned NCAA team so I never really paid attention to it. Plus, growing up in Indiana there weren’t a lot, if any, lacrosse people around me. Sure, I saw it on TV from time to time but my knowledge of it was specious at best. Then I moved to Maryland where lacrosse is everywhere. My knowledge remains, very, very lacking.
Recently a member of the Purdue Lacrosse Club team reached out to see if they could get some love on the site and it sounded like a good idea to me. The one problem, as noted above, I don’t know anything about lacrosse and could most definitely not competently and fairly write about the sport. So we came to the conclusion that they could provide us with updates on the season and how folks can support them. Below is the first such attempt. We’d love to hear feedback from the readers on this type of story. Purdue is a big university with hundreds of stories that deserve to be told and if you think you know one that deserves some please reach out to us and maybe we can shine some light on a topic you care about.
By: Andrew Golden
When most people talk about Purdue University, the conversations involve topics such as: how the football team is going to fair this upcoming season, the school’s rich history within the engineering department, who is the next 7’-0” player Matt Painter is going to recruit, the number of astronauts who are Purdue grads that have gone to the moon, and so on. What a lot of people don’t talk about though is the school’s club sports’ programs, specifically the Men’s Lacrosse team.
The Purdue Men’s Lacrosse team is one of the many club sports programs on the West Lafayette campus. They are not an NCAA team; however, they are far from any ordinary club sport. Year round, they work to be the best lacrosse team in the next best league to the NCAA, the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA).
A majority of Power 5 schools, 70% (48 of 69) to be exact, as well as 32.5% (118 of 363) of all Division I schools play in the MCLA rather than the NCAA, making it one of the most competitive club sports leagues in the country. Compare this to the 16% (11 of 69) of Power 5 schools, and 20% (73 of 363) of Division I schools that sponsor NCAA lacrosse.
This statistic leads to many talented players who want the large school experience and the chance to get a great education, but are not good enough for Division I, to play for MCLA teams rather than playing NCAA DII or DIII. Many players also transfer from Division I teams to MCLA teams for various reasons. Both cases are true every year for Purdue’s team.
The team operates very similarly to an NCAA team. They practice 3-5 days a week year round, sometimes at 6:00 am, other times at 10:30 pm, have film sessions to scout opposing teams, recruit high school players to join the team and host them on campus, and play teams from all over the country traveling by coach bus, train, and possibly even plane soon. The only factor that separates them from an NCAA team is funding and administration.
Completely student-led, an elected executive board and the coaching staff coordinate all of the games, organize fundraisers, manage the team’s budget, run social media accounts, oversee alumni relations, purchase uniforms and equipment, organize community service events, and communicate with the club sports department, all while being full-time students and players on the team. The majority of the team’s budget comes from player dues, donations from alumni, family, and friends, and fundraising events.
Purdue competes in the Upper Midwest Lacrosse Conference (UMLC) within the MCLA, which is essentially The B1G’s club lacrosse conference. Each season they battle it out against IU, Minnesota, Michigan State, Illinois, and Nebraska, as well as Western Michigan, Iowa State, and Miami (OH). Each year the team competes to win the UMLC Championship in order to qualify for the MCLA National Tournament, a 16 team single elimination tournament in May where the National Champion is crowned.
Indy native and 2016 Purdue grad, Dan Sahm, has been the head coach of the team since the 2018-19 school year and has done a great job building up the program. He played for the team throughout his college career and was able to lead the team to 3 conference championships, as well as being named conference Defensive Player of the Year and Honorable Mention All-American during his senior campaign. Since taking over as coach he has taken the team to the conference finals and conference semifinals in the two full seasons the team has had.
Not only has the team gotten better, but participation has also increased significantly as well since Sahm took over. In his first season only seven new players joined and the team finished with 31 players. This past year, over 90 students tried out for the team, and cuts were made for the first time in history to bring the roster down to 50 players.
“One of the goals has been to find students that want to get a great education while still competitively playing the sport they love,” says Sahm. “I have seen the team grow not just on the field, but off the field as well. Every year, they are working harder to lay down the groundwork for the future of the program, and I can’t wait to see how far this team can go.”
Through the growing use of social media, the team has been able to increase their engagement with fans and have gained new followers after being featured on well-known lacrosse publications such as The Lacrosse Network, Lacrosse All Stars, and Varsity Club Lacrosse. Home games are played in the spring at the Northwest Fields located directly across from Folk Field, and away games are streamed on their YouTube page.
The end goal is to become a varsity sport on campus, but it is going to take some time until the lacrosse team will make the move to NCAA DI.
“A lot of factors need to come into play in order for lacrosse to be a varsity sport at Purdue,” Sahm explains. “There are three things that need to occur in order, and those are: the sport needs to be bigger in the state of Indiana and span in more cities, the athletic department needs to consider adding men’s lacrosse while following the rules of Title IX and adding a women’s sport, and the team needs to be able to raise enough money or receive a large donation to start-up the program.”
Right now, the team’s main focus is to be the best MCLA lacrosse team in the country and represent Purdue while doing it.
This school year, make sure to watch and support the Purdue Men’s Lacrosse team compete in one of the most exciting sports in the country. Email Coach Dan Sahm or President Zach Shellhorn with any questions about the team and be sure to follow the team on all social media platforms.
Coach Dan Sahm: firstname.lastname@example.org
President Zach Shellhorn: email@example.com
YouTube: Purdue Men’s Lacrosse