On Tuesday, Boston University announced that they would promote its club men's lacrosse team to Division I-A beginning in the 2013-14 season. The Terriers will play in the America East Conference with Albany, Binghamton, Hartford, UMBC, Stony Brook and Vermont.
BU also announced plans for a new state-of-the-art athletic field for field hockey made possible in part by a $3 million gift from Boston-based New Balance.
This announcement from our Green Line hockey rivals got BC fans wondering why the Eagles don't also compete in Division I men's lacrosse, especially with the women's program making history last year appearing in the program's first NCAA Tournament. The women's program opens the season ranked 13th nationally.
There was a time not too long ago when this very question was an annual staple of the Boston College Athletics Annual Report. While 2011 was the first year in a long, long time that the question didn't come up, here's DeFilippo's response to the question in the 2010 Annual Report.
"No. I do not see a men's lacrosse team in the future. Only four institutions in the ACC (Maryland, Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina) offer men's lacrosse, and none of those institutions offer 18 scholarships for men's ice hockey and 18 scholarships for women's ice hockey. Hockey is a big and important sport here at Boston College, so I do not see the addition of men's lacrosse any time in the future. We cannot be everything to everybody. Hockey has been and will always be very important here at Boston College."
In the time since DeFilippo penned that statement, Syracuse has been invited to the ACC -- likely in time for the 2013-14 season -- which would up the number of ACC men's lacrosse programs to five. That's five of the best men's lacrosse programs in the nation, accounting for 8 of the last 10 National Champions of the sport (with an ACC club playing in the title game the other two years).
Given the popularity of lacrosse locally, Division I men's lacrosse at one of New England's premier college sports programs seems like a no-brainer, but BC hasn't field a program in over a decade. Here are the top three reasons cited for not having a D-I men's lax program.
1. Title IX. Gene will cite Title IX as the primary reason why BC doesn't have men's lacrosse. Title IX stipulates that a university provide an equal athletic opportunities to women as they do to men. Practically speaking, if a school participates in Division I-A football, it needs to offset this by offering the equivalent number of scholarships in one or more women's sports.
2. Funding. Men's lax ain't cheap, especially when you consider the Eagles closest conference opponent is located in Charlottesville. But the ACC lacrosse schedule is hardly a grind with 2-3 conference road games a year max. Lacrosse is a more Northeast-centric sport than even men's ice hockey. The Eagles would easily be able to fill the non-conference schedule with games against BU, Harvard, Holy Cross, UMass, Brown, Providence and Bryant in Massachusetts and Rhode Island alone. There are also rumblings that alumni are willing to fund the program should the school decide to re-install men's lax as a D-I sport.
3. Men's and Women's Ice Hockey. This is the third reason offered up, which is a classic misdirection. Other than the financial concerns of having another program be a cost center -- apparently BC loses close to half a mil on men's hockey each year (which, as an aside I find incredibly hard to believe given that the Eagles enjoy top 10 attendance nationally year in and year out). But the fact that BC prioritizes men's ice hockey has no bearing on the decision of whether or not to elevate men's lacrosse. There are several other schools that offer Division I-A football, men's ice hockey and men's lacrosse, including Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State (soon, hockey) and UMass (soon, football)
[A quick comparison of BC's athletics department composition compared to Notre Dame's shows that Boston College offers field hockey, women's ice hockey, men and women's sailing and men and women's skiing while the Irish do not. Notre Dame offers men's lacrosse, which BC doesn't.
Ohio State, the nation's largest athletics department, also offers opportunities in synchronized swimming, men's volleyball and wrestling, but not sailing or skiing.]
There are ways around Title IX, including adding another women's varsity sport or cutting a men's program. Same goes for raising funds, and the hockey justification doesn't hold much water when you compare BC to a school like Notre Dame.
What fans also have to keep in mind is that DeFilippo is the one who made the decision to cut the program in the early 2000s. No shot he goes back on that decision. Unfortunately, it'll take a new Athletics Director to even revisit the possibility of the school elevating its club men's lax team back to Division I-A.