Lacrosse's westward expansion is a slow, deliberate process. The sport doesn't have the financial resources or the traditional stronghold of a soccer or basketball, so it's going to take a lot of little steps. With the news today that Wiscosin's Marquette University is going to go varsity in men's and women's lacrosse in 2013, it's one more little step in that direction.
With sexy names like Michigan, Florida State and BYU dancing in people's heads, lacrosse fans have waited anxiously for a marquee Division I school to go varsity in men's lacrosse, hoping that one program stepping up might cause more dominoes to fall.
They may have gotten their wish — at least on the first step — with Thursday afternoon's announcement that Marquette will join the Big East Conference in men's and women's lacrosse beginning with the 2012-13 academic year. After a season as an independent, the Golden Eagles will become Big East Lacrosse's eighth men's school and 10th women's program.
Each program will be have the full amount of scholarships available right away and will play their home games on one of the two turf fields at the new-ish Valley Fields complex.
A key part of what drove the Golden Eagles to make the move? The Big East Conference. While many grumbled when the idea was first floated, conference are what will grow the sport more than anything else over the next ten years. Marquette jumps into Division 1 lacrosse with guaranteed games against national powers Syracuse, Notre Dame and Georgetown every year. That's a killer recruiting tool.
No other Big East schools seem to be currently exploring adding the sport, but look for Michigan to finally make the move soon. All of a sudden, there's a growing base of quality schools playing or considering lacrosse in the Midwest.
Slowly but surely, college lacrosse grows.