Ed. Note: Rather than pussyfoot around trying to explain Michigan lacrosse, we may as well give the microphone to a guy that actually follows the Wolverines on a day-in and day-out basis.
Hey y'all, Tim Sullivan from Great Lax State here. The University of Michigan will be adding men's lacrosse for next spring. So, uh, who are they? What are they all about? Just some chill bros hopin' to toss some lax?
I assume most people are familiar with the University of Michigan, what with the winningest college football team in history, The Victors, and all that. However, for those who aren't familiar with "The Harvard of the West," here's a quick primer:
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
Public, 26,000+ Undergraduates, 15,000+ postgrads
Founded in 1817
Famous Non-sports Alumni: President Gerald R. Ford, James Earl Jones, Stephen M. Ross (entrepreneur, chairman of Miami Dolphins), Larry Page (founder of Google), Ann Coulter, Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber - WOO!!), Lucy Liu.
Key Rival Schools: Ohio State, Michigan State, Notre Dame (in that order, and if any other school claims they're a serious rival across multiple sports - I'm looking at you, Illinois and Penn State - they're kidding themselves).
Michigan's first-ever varsity lacrosse coach will be John Paul, who has been the head coach of the MCLA club team for the past 14 seasons. He is a Michigan grad, and played on the club lacrosse team when he was a grad student (despite never having previously played the game).
The MCLA is club ball, but it's organized on a more serious level than a lot of Division-1 fans realize (schools are prohibited from having an MCLA club if they also field a varsity team). Teams travel cross-country in the regular season, have officially-licensed gear, have paid coaching and support staffs, and compete for a National Championship each season. For these reasons and many more, it is known as a "virtual varsity" league. This is not your classic club league that's more concerned with the kegger than the game it follows.
In the MCLA, there are a few elite teams. Colorado, Colorado State, Arizona State, and BYU are some of the more recognizable names, though Chapman University (whose varsity sports compete in NCAA Division 3) is also a power. Michigan stands above the rest, with 3 of the last 4 National Championships to their name, and the Wolverines have lost a grand total of 2 games since May of 2007. Behind the top 15-20 teams, there is a huge dropoff, and there are some programs who treat it as a "club league" rather than a virtual varsity.
Of course, Michigan's first varsity squad - hitting the field a year earlier than most expected, in the Spring of 2012 - won't be built of the same pieces as the MCLA squad. Though there are a few Division-1 caliber players on the squad (25 will move on to the varsity team), it will take a few years - and a few recruiting classes - for the talent level to be anywhere near where it should be to compete with the upper-tier teams.
That said, Michigan's coaching staff has been recruiting at a level unlike any other MCLA team for the past four years, and at least a couple players who chose Michigan over partial scholarships to D1 squads, in part because they wanted the "big school" experience, and in part because they knew that the Wolverines would be playing with the Big Boys by the time they graduated.
Unless John Paul and company have a lot of aces up their respective sleeves, Michigan should struggle in 2012. They should be able to pick up a couple wins against weak teams (hello, Mercer. Would you be interested in scheduling an intercollegiate lacrosse contest?), but should struggle against established programs.
5- and 10-year goals are a little more hazy, but Michigan Athletic Direct0r David Brandon wouldn't be making this investment if he didn't think the team would be competitive - and quickly (that's one of the reasons most Michigan fans love him - he's willing to spend what it takes to win). By the time the 10-year benchmark hits, I would be shocked if Michigan hasn't made at least a couple NCAA Tournaments, maybe even picking up a win along the way.