The Friars, and Chris Gabrielli, are movin' on up (eventually).
I'll admit it: When Providence canned former Providence head coach Chris Burdick and publicly acknowledged that their new hire would fall in-line with the institution's plans to "move ahead in a new era in Friar lacrosse," I was skeptical. Given where the Friars were in the lacrosse hierarchy, the prior commitments made to the program, and the unclear future of the Big East Conference, I didn't think much of the statements that the school's athletic director made regarding Providence's plans to push forward with construction on a lacrosse stadium and associated facility. It sounded like run-of-the-mill athletic director rhetoric, trying to throw balloons in the sky to try and attract solid candidates for the head coaching vacancy.
When Chris Gabrielli eventually took the job in Rhode Island, an assistant highly-regarded in lacrosse circles, I started to come around a little bit. While still reticent to believe that Providence was really going to invest in lacrosse, Gabrielli's decision to leave Duke for a program that had gone 43-81 since 2005 did make me think that something was happening. Ever the pessimist, though, I wandered through this with caution:
Assuming -- and that's just about the biggest modifier since "Apollo 11: We think there may be something wrong with the tin can that you're pushing through deadly space" -- that Providence follows through with its commitment to build a new lacrosse stadium and locker room facility, Gabrielli's charge to move Providence into "a new era in Friar lacrosse" goes from "nearly impossible" to "labor-intensive sweating endeavor." Support for Gabrielli and the lacrosse program, like anywhere, is going to really determine just how successful the newly-minted head coach can be.
After today, however, I'm squarely in the camp that Providence is getting its act together. In fact, that may be a bit of an understatement: Providence is charging at lacrosse like a man that charges at things (great analogy, professional writer):
There isn't a lot of information about the new facility floating around on the web, and judging by the image this is all still a work in progress. From other pieces of information, though, it looks like the Friars are going to have a swanky place to call home (at some point):
[T]he College gained approval for a state-of-the-art soccer, lacrosse and track athletic complex adjacent to Schneider Arena, which also will be renovated. Included in this complex will be a 30,000 square-foot facility connected to Schneider Arena which will house locker rooms and other facilities for athletic teams.
Look at that. A university's soccer, track, and lacrosse teams co-existing not just on an athletic offering list, but also in the same joint. Et tu, Richmond?
This facility doesn't necessarily make Providence an assumed contender down the road -- wins and losses are still the most important thing -- but it does put them on the map (and not the part of the map that's listed as "Uninhabited Territory"). The Friars have a long way to go, but a facility like this that rivals any in the country, has the potential to rehabilitate the face of Providence lacrosse and its success arc. Good on the school for believing in lacrosse and Gabrielli. Hopefully the return on investment is solid.