I was blindsided when Richmond decided to add men's lacrosse to its varsity roster of offerings last Friday. As I wrote at the time, the discussions that were taking place at Richmond felt like serious discussions that would, at some point in the future, turn into really serious discussions. The original report from the Richmond Times-Dispatch included the possibility of the school cutting a sport or two to make room for men's lacrosse, and given the issues attendant in vaporizing an already established athletic offering for something relatively new to the school and the region as a whole, it seemed kind of reasonable that Richmond would, again, deeply consider the issue and make a final decision at some point down the road.
Well, I guess I'm a moron. (Every girl I have ever dated will confirm this fact, likely in great detail and potentially with a PowerPoint presentation.) Richmond went ahead and added men's lacrosse on the same day that it axed men's soccer and indoor and outdoor track and field. That kind of layered decision requires a big ol' set of trousers, but if the reports are to be believed, Richmond did its due diligence in the process.
The Collegian, Richmond's student newspaper, talked with Richmond Athletic Director Jim Miller about the Spiders' recent moves. As it turns out, it wasn't the athletic department that ultimately made the decision to drop two sports and add men's lacrosse; it was the Board of Trustees, acting on a report from an established committee, that dropped the gavel:
"The decision was made at the Board of Trustees’ level," [Miller] said.
The university established the committee, which had a representative from the athletics department on it, in April of 2011 that was composed of faculty and administrators from across campus, Miller said.
"[The committee] did a year-long study of what sports we should have, looking at budgets, admissions issues and everything else you could imagine," he said. "They went through all the data, and the ultimate decision was that they wanted to add men’s lacrosse.
I'm not here to argue about Richmond's decision to sponsor men's lacrosse and I'm sure that their diligence was strong, but I do have a question: What, exactly, was contained in this data?
This is essentially why I thought Richmond would wait another 12 months to make a decision about adding varsity men's lacrosse -- having the opportunity to monitor the progress of Michigan, Mercer, Boston University, Furman, High Point, Marquette, and Monmouth, Richmond would have a stronger idea of what was necessary to enter the field and what kind of expectations and resources would be necessary to compete relative to the value that the school would receive in return. I think a lot of that data is still unclear (relative to new programs).
That doesn't necessarily mean that Richmond is jumping into this thing riding a nuclear weapon and hoping for the best (far from it, actually); it's just that if you're going to deny two athletic programs the opportunity to compete to create an opportunity for a different program, I'd want a rock solid data set. It's awesome that Richmond reached out to current coaches to gauge their opinion on entering the fold, but Richmond isn't stepping into Delaware's shoes in 2014; it's going into Marquette's shoes. That's a different kind of reality, and I'm not sure that relying on perceived value returning on anticipated investments is something I can have as a foundation when I look a soccer coach in the face and explain to him why his program will no longer exist.
Again, it's great that the Spiders are going after this. I just don't know what the data was showing them and the veracity of it. (To reiterate, though: I'm sure that the Spiders did the work; I just think the work product would have looked stronger in 12 months especially considering that two sports there will no longer exist.) That's Richmond's issue, though; all I do is write nonsense on the Internet and eat fruit salad because it's delicious.