Is Richmond Next for Division I Lacrosse?

The University of Richmond has dropped men's soccer and indoor and outdoor track for men's varsity lacrosse.

Update III (Friday, September 21, 2012 at 6:45 P.M.): Richmond is shooting for Spring 2014 to compete.

Update II (Friday, September 21, 2012 at 3:35 P.M.): Richmond's student newspaper is confirming the earlier reporting, citing sources from the school's track and soccer teams. I did not see this coming today. Oh, well. Time for pumpkin beers!

Update (Friday, September 21, 2012 at 3:25 P.M.): Yeah, so about all that stuff I wrote questioning the momentum of Richmond's decision? It's done. Richmond is adding men's lacrosse. Men's track and soccer are getting cut. No start date for the new varsity men's team has been announced. (Man Hug: Richmond Times-Dispatch via Inside Lacrosse.)

Original: Just when you thought you were going to ease into a weekend filled with alumni games and intra-squad scrimmages . . . BAM! . . . news happens!

As reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch -- it's a real newspaper; they print words and everything, and not just online! -- Richmond is, apparently, thinking about potentially considering the opportunity to maybe have discussions about a men's varsity lacrosse team:

The University of Richmond may be closer to making men's lacrosse a varsity sport. The school's board of trustees is considering the subject this week, as it did in April. Meetings were held on Thursday, with more scheduled for today.

* * * * *

"I think lacrosse is a strong, viable sport nationally that would certainly seem to fit into the University of Richmond culture of who we recruit, where we recruit, and it's a sport in which I'm sure we could be successful," [Richmond's athletic director] said. "Whether that translates into adding that as a sport, either short-term or long-term, I really can't comment."

* * * * *

If men's lacrosse is upgraded to Division I, the probable option to comply with Title IX would be the elimination of an existing men's sport or sports. For men, UR supports football, basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, soccer, tennis and track and field.

If you read that and the story in its entirety, I have no idea what Richmond is actually doing. It seems like people that are probably wearing bow ties and chomping on big ol' Churchill cigars are talking about potentially having a stronger discussion around a men's analogue to its women's varsity lacrosse team. Obviously, this seems pretty far from any kind of strong momentum toward definitely establishing a program given the athletic offerings that would need to be cut to make room for lacrosse. (At least given the tone of the article. Richmond may be holding back here. Who knows?)

As has been the party line around these parts, simply having the discussion is a really good thing; if Richmond can find a way to make this happen, that will be totally awesome. Continued growth at the Division I level is always a good thing, and if the Spiders are willing to really commit to a varsity program (in terms of resources and support), even better given the school's geographic location.

There are two things here, though, that make me wonder about the ripple effect should Richmond choose to pursue the varsity route:

  1. If the Spiders move into Division I, which conference will they join (if they're offered membership)? Richmond plays in the CAA for football but is a full Atlantic-10 member in all other sports (the A-10 doesn't sponsor men's lacrosse). Would THUNDERDOME! offer them a landing spot? Maybe the ECAC? Immediate membership in a conference would absolutely change the volition of the program, as Boston University is seeing with its foray into the Patriot League.
  2. If Richmond makes the move, that's another southern school joining the fold. Does that give Virginia Tech some incentive to elevate its program? Clemson, Florida State, or Georgia? Other schools in the SELC? Can this move, potentially, start turning the wheels on a southern-based conference (I'm sure Mercer, Jacksonville, and High Point would love that)?

There's just too much noise right now. I'm going to go eat a chili dog. In the interim, get this done, Richmond.

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