What began as a rumor about a year ago is now a reality – On Friday June 16, 2017 the University of Utah announced that it will be adding an NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse program. The team will again play in the MCLA for the 2017-2018 season before moving to Division I competition in 2019.
Last July, Brian Holman, a longtime assistant coach at North Carolina, who had just helped coach the Tar Heels to the 2016 National Championship, was announced as the new Head Coach of the Utes. Joining him on the Utah staff were his son Marcus Holman, Will Manny, and Adam Ghitelman, – stars in DI lacrosse during their collegiate play, and professionally in Major League Lacrosse. Also joining the staff was Tim McDermott, who played three seasons at D III Geneseo before moving on to Loyola where he played in 12 games, winning 109 faceoffs with a 57% win percentage. Needless to say, the hiring of a coaching staff of this stature gave legitimacy to the speculation that the team might move to DI.
When it begins play, Utah will be the westernmost DI men’s lacrosse program – over 500 hundred miles west of the University of Denver (a member of the Big East), and nearly 600 miles west of the Air Force Academy (a member of the Southern Conference). The University is a member of the Pac-12, but none of the other schools in the league offer Division I lacrosse. As such, the program will have to affiliate with one of the existing conferences, which will surely earn the Utes some frequent flyer miles! Perhaps if other western programs emerge in the future, the Pac-12 may sponsor lacrosse, or a new western lacrosse conference will emerge.
In recent years, NCAA lacrosse has shown more growth at the DII and DIII levels than DI. The consensus has been that Title IX requirements make adding new men’s sports at DI institutions difficult, if not impossible. However, Utah’s announcement demonstrates that adding lacrosse to a Power 5 conference school is possible. Financially, Utah’s lacrosse program will be supported by a $15.6 million endowment from an anonymous donor and other benefactors. Utah and St. Bonaventure, which will also offer a program in coming seasons, will bring the total number of DI men’s lacrosse programs to 72.
Last month, the Utah High School Activities Association announced that the state would begin sanctioning boys and girls lacrosse in the 2019-2020 academic year, a move that might further develop in state lacrosse talent that will one day play for the Utes. What might draw recruits to Utah from some of the traditional hot beds in the meantime? Some players will surely want to be a part of something new and big, while others might go to Utah for the experiences that the state has to offer including world class skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking.
For more info visit Utah Lacrosse.