It's just a notebook item, but if there's some meat to the notion, it could be pretty important. Not, like, "We found a dinosaur colony on the moon and they invented a microwave pizza that doesn't taste like complete and total trash!" but rather important in that the face of Division I lacrosse could, once again, see a significant change.
In an update on the MCLA on Inside Lacrosse, Dave Franklin lights the fuse on Minnesota's potential to pursue Division I lacrosse:
More Minnesota and DI Potential
Could Minnesota be the next BCS athletic department to make the next jump to NCAA lacrosse? As far as developing hotbeds are concerned, Minnesota is strong and the support that the Swarm has enjoyed is impressive. Further, hockey crossover was a huge hit in both Colorado and Michigan; Minnesota’s potential in that area could be even stronger. The Gophers' new AD Norwood Teague apparently has a lacrosse playing background and has been confirmed to have taken meetings with [Minnesota head coach Rich Limpert.] The Big Ten has even more incentive and reach to break into men’s lacrosse and as we saw in Ann Arbor, a zealous new AD can sometimes be the tipping point. The Gophers have already received advanced weight room privileges and will play at least one game this year in TCF Bank Stadium, Minnesota’s new football venue where they hosted St. Thomas last year.
That's far from, "Minnesota is seriously considering Division I lacrosse." In fact, it's closer to, "Minnesota has an MCLA team that has some nice benefits." In the Southern California situation, in which the assistant athletic director had some stronger comments about internal discussions specifically identifying men's lacrosse as a potential Division I participant, things seem a little more tangible. And the Florida State athletic director noted, directly, that if that athletic department adds athletic offerings, men's lacrosse will be on the list. Minnesota's situation is a little more nebulous.
If the Gophers do decide to go forward with Division I lacrosse at some point, though, it does have some interesting ramifications:
- Obviously, another Midwestern school added to the run is exciting for the game, but how does that impact Marquette and other schools in the region? A lot of those schools rely, in part, on mining the talent in that area of the country to help build their rosters. If Minnesota joins the fun, that dilutes these schools' ability to corner the market on these recruits. Midwestern lacrosse has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years; another Division I player in that market could both continue the game's growth there and re-shape Division I lacrosse in that region.
- The Big Ten already has three Division I members -- Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. A fourth league member playing in the cohort probably won't push the Big Ten to form a conference (those schools need membership in an automatic bid conference to survive). A Big Ten lacrosse league at only four members doesn't get those institutions that valuable auto-pass to May. It does, however, potentially put in three things in play: (1) Does it push a school like Michigan State, a former Division I member, to reconsider its lacrosse situation?; (2) Does it push any other Big Ten members to reconsider its lacrosse situation in an effort to get to, at least, six lacrosse-playing members?; and (3) Does it push the Big Ten Network to broadcast even more lacrosse games, growing the profile of these programs and lacrosse in the Midwest (and, if your cable provider isn't miserable, across the country)?
- If Minnesota were to go Division I, it may help stabilize the ECAC in the short term. (The potential of the Big Ten Conference, as a result of Minnesota making the move, sponosring men's lacrosse, however, may further de-stablize the league in the long-term.) That league seems like a solid landing spot for a nascent Gophers program, and it would continue to keep some eyes on a league with an unclear future.
What do you knuckleheads think? The comments are yours.