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"The Richmond Method"

"Cut and add" kind of makes me want to vomit.

Ronald Martinez - Getty Images

Just to make this clear right off the top: Again, I think that Richmond adding men's lacrosse to its varsity athletic offerings is great for the game. Another southern school added to the growing roster of teams is more indicia that lacrosse is finding its place in the sporting landscape and that this is more than a Baltimore-Long Island-Central New York obsession. This is a good thing; it validates the game.

Where I have trouble with Richmond's situation is my personal difficulty in reconciling the excitement around the Spiders joining the Division I party and my aversion to cutting sponsored sports. We have all seen, over the years, men's lacrosse getting shelved for various reasons (budgetary, Title IX compliance, interest, etc.) Watching those programs disappear creates a combination of anger, disgust, and disappointment. It just plain stinks. And to see Richmond adopt the "cut and add" approach to bring men's lacrosse into the fold echoes those feelings, although it is muted in the fact that lacrosse -- for the first time ever with respective to ultra-modern era of the game -- isn't the disposed party.

The Growth Blog took a look at this situation late last week and had this to say:

So is the Richmond Method the new norm? Not likely, but they may be ahead of their time. Division I university male sports offerings are relatively stagnant, and if there is movement it's often negative not positive gains. Overall there is very little change year to year, and the fact that lacrosse is getting added at the rate it is is amazing in its own right. This chart displays NCAA Male sports fluxuations over the last twenty years. . . lacrosse is one of only two men's sports that has positive growth at the D1 level.

If lacrosse growth has a tipping point, a time where many schools badly want to add the sport, where the pluses outway the minuses, that's when things will get interesting. Imagine if twenty years from now lacrosse is a revenue sport along with Football and Basketball. That will open the eyes of a lot of athletic directors, and they may be willing to fit the bill to add the sport, but will they be willing to fit the bill to add a women's sport as well? If not then you'll likely see more of the Richmond Method put to work. Addition by subtraction.

I've been unabashed in my position that schools should pursue adding men's lacrosse teams to their athletic offerings (especially schools in major conferences with large alumni and support bases). This position is built on the foundation not of what lacrosse can offer these schools, but rather that if lacrosse wants to continue its growth, it needs more and more Division I schools to start sponsoring programs. This position is built on the value that Division I sponsorship offers the sport, not what Division I lacrosse offers the sponsoring school. Maybe this is a backwards approach to this whole thing; I don't know. It is, however, where my head is at right now and it heavily underlies my difficulty in reconciling my feelings around Richmond's situation: "Cut and add" could whipsaw lacrosse down the line.

Let's say that in 2022 Richmond isn't seeing the return on investment that it had originally thought it would receive from adding men's lacrosse to its varsity run. Will lacrosse get cut? That's not good growth for the game; in fact, that's really bad for the game. "Cut and add" is a dangerous proposition; it's cold and analytical and dependent on "data" that is nebulous in its very nature. The idea here is to grow the pie, not play a zero-sum game; everyone in athletics needs to benefit from the addition of lacrosse, and the only way you can get there is to try and grow the pie rather than moving rocks around.

I really hope that this isn't a trend around the country.