In real life I have a dastardly job that makes me work a lot and ask people to perform services for them. This isn't a bad thing as I enjoy American currency which allows me to buy things and, you know, exist in a manner that doesn't require me to be a boxcar hobo, going from city to city carrying all of my belongings in a bandanna attached to the end of a long stick. This is generally okay except for one thing: I get behind on stuff.
This is one of those things that I got behind on. Earlier this week Quint Kessenich did a meandering Q&A with Inside Lacrosse on a bunch of stuff, covering his thoughts on fall ball, the new rules, and the new programs entering Division I this coming season and in the near future. It is that last topic that interested me the most. Here was the question and Quint's response:
IL: If you had to rate the seven new programs in terms of championship potential, what would it look like?
3. Boston University
6. High Point
The question and the answer exists in a bit of a contextual vacuum -- are we talking about the first program to potential get to Championship Weekend or are we talking about ranking programs in terms of sustained ability to get to Championship Weekend over the course of program existence? I'm not sure that the underlying question is ultimately important -- hell raising for the sake of hell raising is still awesome hell raising -- but looking at things in the long-haul, at least for me, is a little more interesting than lighting off a one-off firecracker and testing the resiliency of fingers.
I think there are a few things that will ultimately drive the strength of these programs to move toward the national elite at some point down the road: coaching; institutional and alumni resources; institutional opportunities; conference affiliation; geographic location; and ability to put together a schedule. Some of those things are nebulous in terms of application to a program's current status; some are a little more concrete. Regardless, here's how I'd rank the seven new programs.
This is a no-brainer. In fact, there are probably two-dozen established Division I programs that don't have the potential to get to Championship Weekend before the Wolverines do. Michigan showed that the transition to man-pants lacrosse isn't easy, but there's so much that Michigan -- as a school and where it has shown it is willing to take its program -- is capable of that putting any other program on this list ahead of the Wolverines is grounds for face-slapping.
I don't think that people give "The Richie Meade Factor" enough credit. Meade, while edging up on Social Security benefits territory, is one of the brightest minds in the game and has shown that the fire he has for lacrosse -- not only in coaching but building a program -- hasn't waned a bit. Furman is a recognized liberal arts college located in South Carolina (noted for its distaste for snow and other miserable things about Northeast winters). The game is growing in the region, and the school has shown that it's willing to dedicate resources toward the program. The issue for Furman is going to be a lack of conference affiliation and getting games, but there is serious opportunity for the Paladins.
3. Boston University
A rookie head coach isn't necessarily a good thing and it's going to take time to build the Terriers from the ground floor, but Boston University is a known quantity in the Northeast -- a continuing hotbed for the game -- and with affiliation in the Patriot League, the Terriers have the chance to sell itself with many pluses. It's going to take time for quality players to come through the program, but with resources like New Balance Field and all that Boston has to offer, I could see the Terriers charging ahead of some of their peers.
If I wrote this list a year from now the Spiders would probably be higher. The Spiders aren't going into this thing with their pants down (although, that'd be a more fun story to write: "Richmond Adds Division I Lacrosse; Proposes to Play Pantsless at a Go-Go Bar"). The ranking is more due to the fact of the unknowns. The Spiders have been drawing well from important pockets of the country to populate their club team and the published resources are interesting, it's just . . . this all happened about a week ago. The big drivers here for Richmond are going to be which conference the program joins and who will coach the team. There is all kinds of potential here, it's just that this all just happened.
The Big East's situation with the departures of Notre Dame and Syracuse makes Marquette's potential for growth a little difficult. Joe Amplo is revered in the industry and Marquette, as a school, is a fine destination for any kid looking for an education. Also working in the Golden Eagles' favor is that it remains one of the few schools in the Midwest that can offer a Division I opportunity for a local kid -- a burgeoning growth spot for the sport -- to play relatively near home at the game's highest level. However, if you can't sell recruits on playing Syracuse and Notre Dame every year and you potentially have trouble getting programs to schlep it out to Milwaukee, I don't know where Marquette ends up on the scale of competitiveness.
6. High Point
The Panthers lack conference affiliation and, even worse, established programs -- Duke and North Carolina -- are nearby that will likely siphon talent and exposure from High Point. I like Jon Torpey, I just don't know the volition of the program compared to its peers. This is a tough spot, a spot that the school is willing to support to try and move out of it, but this is a really hard position right now. The key for High Point is going to be aligning itself and outworking its competitors. That's not the best position to be in, especially with external pressures. It can draw folks in given its location and doesn't have a ton of competition in recruiting the south, but that hasn't exactly panned out for Jacksonville yet.
[ frowny face ]
How would you shake this out? The comments are yours to raise a stink.