May 20, 2012; Chester, PA USA; Virginia Cavaliers attack Steele Stanwick (6) drives against Notre Dame Fighting Irish defender Stephen O'Hara (4) during the second half of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Quarterfinals at PPL Park. The Fighting Irish won 12-10. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Following the news of Notre Dame's move to the ACC, someone popped a FanPost asking about how the Irish's decision would impact the decisions of other ACC members -- Florida State, Boston College, Pittsburgh, Clemson, N.C. State, etc. -- around elevating their club programs to varsity status. That's a pretty sharp question; I hadn't thought of it. That deserves a College Crosse gold star, which is redeemable nowhere for absolutely nothing.
The short answer to the question is, "I have no clue." The long answer is nebulous and grounded in pure speculation, which is good for the human spirit but poor for actually getting stuff done. Rather than groping through an awkward narrative about this, a "pro/con/unknown" list about elevating a program into the new ACC is probably the best format for walking through this.
- PROS: You're joining the best sports conference ever; I'm willing to argue that there is no conference -- including SEC football -- that will be as strong as the ACC will be in lacrosse once Notre Dame joins the fold . . . With the strength of the ACC, you can sell recruits, fans, and alumni on a product that will feature each year at least six of the strongest men's lacrosse programs in the country; that kind of competition -- and buzz around the competition -- carries all sorts of tangible and intangible value . . . Even if the television "unknown" is still a little abstract, the ACC already carries a nice exposure package and participation in the ACC at least puts your name in the newspaper and on TV . . . The ACC will eventually become a league that can offer its champion an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
- CONS: Lots of ass beatings . . . If you're going to step into the ACC and try to legitimately compete, it's going to take a serious financial investment (full scholarship funding, a serious travel and recruiting budget, facilities to try and match Notre Dame's Arlotta Stadium, Virginia's new practice field, et al.) . . . Again, lots of ass beatings until things start to come together . . . It's still unclear that an investment in varsity lacrosse carries with it actionable exposure that significantly raises the profile of a school (despite Marquette's decision to do so based almost exclusively on that fact) . . . That automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament is probably a pipe dream for a long time.
- UNKNOWN: Will the ACC's television package grow due to the increased league inventory? If so, that's a greater degree of exposure for participating members . . . What's the local growth of lacrosse in some of these markets (Western Pennsylvania, Northern Florida, South Carolina, etc.) and is it sustainable enough to support a local varsity program? Big schools are going to have a national recruiting draw simply because of name recognition, but having a strong local base -- for recruiting and for butts in the seats -- is always important.
Selfishly, I want all these club programs to elevate and hang out and play at the varsity level. To me, the depth of competition in the new ACC shouldn't negatively impact a team from wanting to participate at the Division I level; ass beatings are ass beatings and you deal with it. If these schools want to play, they'll come regardless of whether Notre Dame is in the league. The barriers to competing are pronounced, but the Irish's inclusion in the league shouldn't be a first-line consideration as to whether a program elevates to varsity status. (Unless you're Boston College and you put so much value on competing against Notre Dame in everything.)