Lacrosse & The Future
By now, we have all heard that Johns Hopkins is going to the Big 10. Some folks are really happy, such as the Frank the Tank faithful. As they should be. As a preface, there should be no illusion that this is a disaster for the ACC. This is not the conference apocalypse. There should not be any wailing and gnashing of teeth.
But it is kind of bad news, right?
Here is why.
Lacrosse is a sport of the future.
The more you think about it… football is 80-90% of the revenue. At the same time, people are recognizing the danger of playing the sport. Junior Seau and others have had significant brain damage playing the sport. If more and more parents stopped letting their kids play football, would anyone be surprised? This will not happen tomorrow or even next year. But somewhere down the line it may happen.
How many suburban kids are boxing these days? These things take a generation, but they happen. Think of why boxing is less popular. Physical? Check. Brutal? Check. Overrun by profiteering? Absolutely. When is the last time you watched boxing on a major network? No, it’s been a long time since the best boxing shifted to PPV, HBO, and Showtime. As the profit went up, the popularity went down. $50 for 1 minute fights will do that. And look where college football is headed… from all-over-the-air networks to ESPN, and then ESPN to conferences having their own networks. The money is starting to change access to sports. It is a slippery slope. Football is following boxing’s path.
What suburban kids are playing is lacrosse. Lacrosse is not as physical as football, but it is more of a contact sport than soccer. It has the stick work and checking of hockey. It has the skill and teamwork of soccer, but with a lot more scoring. It requires the athleticism of all of the above. It is a fast sport like basketball and unlike baseball. It does not require the expensive ice time–you can play lacrosse on any soccer field. You can practice with a brick wall. You need some equipment, but you do not need ice skates or expensive time at an ice arena.
Nor do you need to be tall. You do not need to weigh 300 pounds. You do need to be athletic, but you can be any size and play the sport.
It is also gender neutral. Women play lacrosse. This will lead to a bunch of future mothers that encourage their kids to play lacrosse. And if you have ever lived in an NHL city, you know that women are not adverse to hockey, despite being physical. It is just that some people–men and women–can make a reasonable argument that football goes too far… like boxing. Suburban kids are shifting to lacrosse.
No sport will ever generate the revenue of football, but lacrosse could turn itself into a revenue sport. Which is why the Big 10 was wise to jump on the Johns Hopkins opportunity.
Which is also why the ACC might have missed out on this one. You only get so many opportunities to partner with a sports icon. Adding Johns Hopkins lacrosse to the same conference that has Notre Dame football would have been a nice win. The loss is not catastrophic. But it is a loss nevertheless.
What do you think? And don’t just regurgitate that the ACC will be fine. Of course it will. And if it is not fine down the road, it will not be because of this one decision. Instead, what do you think of the future of lacrosse and where should the ACC go based on that future?
EXCELLENT article! Of course no one knows where the sports world is headed for sure, but I have to agree that football is following the same general path as boxing, and will likely end up in the same place someday – as a fringe sport. When/If that happens, will lacrosse replace it, or something else? Ah, that’s the REAL question…
The ACC will be the premere lax league by far into the future! Sure, JHU would have been a plus to ACC lax, and B10 lax will improve by them joining. BUT: 1) When your lax conference consists of Syracuse, Duke, UVA, UNC, ND…ahhh, there’s no comparison! 2) I don’t like partial conference memberships; this hurt the BE, (ND is an exception that we live with AND benefit from). PS: JHU considers themselves ‘the top-lax college program in the US!’ Hmmm. Count the number of titles since lax was in the NCAA’s…SU has the most, with I believe Princeton in 2nd place.
Count titles since LAX was in the NCAA’s. OK, let’s. It looks like the one championship advantage of Syracuse over JHU (10-9) is due to the JHU dry spell in the 90’s. Syracuse was the dominant team of the turn of the century, Princeton the dominant team of the 90’s, Johns Hopkins of the 80’s, JHU & Cornell split the 70’s. Duke has the edge to be the Team of the Teens.
Teens: 2 Duke, 1 LoyolaMD, 1 UVA
Naughties: 5 Syracuse, 2 JHU, 2 UVA, 1 Princeton
90’s: 5 Princeton, 2 Syracuse, 1 UVA, 1 UNC
80’s: 4 JHU, 3 Syracuse, 3 UNC
70’s: 3 JHU, 3 Cornell, 2 UMD, 1 UVA
2: Duke 2013, 2010
1: LoyolaMD 2012
5: UVA 2011, 2006, 2003, 1999, 1972
10: Syracuse 2009, 2008, 2004, 2002, 2000, 1995, 1993, 1989, 1988, 1983
9: JHU 2007, 2005, 1987, 1985, 1984, 1980, 1979, 1978. 1974
6: Princeton 2001, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1994, 1992
4: UNC 1991, 1986, 1982, 1981,
3: Cornell 1977, 1976, 1971
2: UMD 1975, 1973
NB: only 9 in the 70’s, competition sponsored by the NCAA in 1971, only 9 in the 90’s, 1990 title vacated due to NCAA infractions.
Great points throughout! I do think the boat was missed on this, not just from a lacrosse perspective but from a TV market area to keep some eyes in the DC/Baltimore area. There are two ways to go about this: 1) Current ACC teams need to add lacrosse, and 2) do what the Big 10 just did, go outside the box – add Hobart.
The first reaction to adding Hobart would be that if the ACC were to do that, we should have added Hopkins to begin with – and that is a correct reaction. But short of current teams adding the sport, Hobart is a D1 only program in lacrosse with a strong program (beat Syracuse this year for example). It does not add eyeballs to the networks on its own, but does add excellent strength to the conference.
I know there are existing examples of special arrangements for certain sports with conferences already, but this may be the turning point of where those arrangements become more prominent.
There is very little value in adding Hobart. They would be better off in the Big East.
Does Hobart have other D-1 sports? I think that is the trick–finding a school that only has lacrosse that needs placement. JHU was unique in that regard. Hobart may also be. But I agree with you that Hobart adds little value overall. It would be better to have Louisville and Florida State create programs.
I originally posted this two days ago under your other article announcing JHU to the B1G.
I don’t believe that Hobart as any other D1 sports, so they fall under that “JHU” loophole. But, unless the NCAA requires a minimum of 6 teams per conference, then there is no point in adding Hobart.
Lacrosse will continue to gain in popularity nationwide, but its largely an affluent suburban sport. ACC lacrosse needs to be in affluent suburbs of Boston and DC.
Hobart is a non scholarship program, though ~ JHU is the only D1 scholarship exception school in men’s Lacross, the other six exception schools play ice hockey, soccer and men’s volleyball (originally eight total, one soccer school dropped to D3 soccer anyway).
Bad idea to add Hobart or any other lax only school! The ACC doesn’t want partial members (ND is a very unique exception). The solution is simple for the ACC… convince and help fund an existing ACC school to start D1 lax! Yes, I know a women’s sport will need to be added as well for T9 purposes…geez!
With regards to “missing the boat” and needing to keep eyeballs in DC market, UVa and VT combined own a greater market share than UMd. 😉
That’s good information.
I would love to see Louisville step up. It is a growing sports here, when even have a pro team here, the Stickhorses.
Given the private nature by which the ACC conducts conference business, I think that the apparent lack of interest in adding JHU indicates either 1) the ACC considers there is no advantage to adding a lacrosse only member, or 2) there is a plan in place for one or more of the current members to add lacrosse in the near future. Louisville and BC being likely candidates.
Another factor is academics. Johns Hopkins is a huge addition to the Big Ten’s CIC and would have been a huge addition to ACCIAC.
It’s bad news because it helps the B1G. If JHU went to the Big East then it wouldn’t bother me nearly as much. The fact that it was an extremely clever addition that doesn’t cost the B1G anything is just down-right annoying.
While the ACC doesn’t have to do anything, it would be nice to see them do something equally clever and forward thinking.
The problem with the boxing analogy is that the sport’s popularity has largely been replaced by MMA fighting…which is arguably a more violent sport than boxing.
Now, if football continues to reduce the amount of hard hits to the point of it becoming two-hand touch, and lacrosse allows hockey-style fighting, then yeah it could definitely be comparable to football someday.
I’m still hopeful that Speedball will become mainstream.
Agree that ACC missed the boat on JHU…..academically excellent; research powerhouse, and of course very good LAX teams…BUT the biggest reason to take JHU was to keep it from going to the B1G and providing more conference competition in the ACC heartland–oops a B1G word…..ACC middle….HOWEVER, believe at least two present ACC teams will man-up to LAX teams….and this is basis for not taking JHU as a one sport associate….heck NAVY fits the geography and could fill-in for Football if necessary….
I’m a huge advocate of Navy to the ACC.
The obvious lacrosse fix is UL. Jurich is a direct decendant of King Midas so, I know they will get the right coach and hace a quality program in a relatively short period of time. But don’t just stop a 6, BC (LC is strong in the NE) and FSU (athletic speedsters who couldn’t make it playing football) would be great adds too!
You’re right that L’Ville seems to have the resources needed and has been successful at many of the most popular sports lately.
However, despite the gaining popularity of lacrosse nationwide, its still predominently played in affluent, suburban areas. I won’t pretend to know the demographics in Louisville, Kentucky, but I imagine that its like the suburban areas surrounding east coast cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and DC where Lacrosse will continue to have the most/fastest growth for the next decade or two while the rest of the country catches up.
There is no particular urgency for the ACC to add any members ~ the Big Ten needed six because of the long standing rule that you need six Big Ten teams to have the Big Ten sponsor the sport, but they promised Maryland they would look into Lacrosse.
The ACC obviously has no such six team magic number. Six teams also gives AQ, but if the fourth best ACC school out of five wins the tournament, those two tournament wins would be enough added to its resume to guarantee an at-large bid, even if it was on the bubble before. So the AQ is just a formaility for the ACC, whichever one of the top four schools wins the tournament.
So I’m reading a lot on here about how the acc should have added JHU and how the B1G adding the blue jays makes the B1G a mega research machine. Guess what fellow ACC alums, our schools can catch up. Oh and about the B1G’s CIC. Here are some interesting facts:
Did you know that the CIC does not distribute any funds? Did you know that it plays no part in winning research grants? Don’t believe me? Here is a link to a Michigan Blog that discusses these topics:
Look, the CIC does offer some advantages, as clearly stated in the article but it is hardly the game changer that most are making it out to be. Read the article and decide for yourself.
In my opinion: Comparing lacrosse to American football is the wrong comparison. Instead lacrosse should be compared to field hocky which is more popular outside the United States. (International markets are important to the Big Ten, especially for attracting top-talent graduate students as part of its research mission.)
Paraphrased from Wikipedia:
The biggest two field hockey tournaments are the Olympic Games tournament, and the Hockey World Cup, which is also held every 4 years. Apart from this, there is the Champions Trophy held each year for the six top-ranked teams. Field hockey has also been played at the Commonwealth Games since 1998. Amongst the men, India lead in olympic competition, having won 8 golds (6 successive), while Pakistan lead in the world cup having lifted it 4 times. Amongst the women, Australia has 3 Olympic golds while Netherlands has clinched the World Cup 6 times. India and Pakistan dominated men’s hockey until the early 1980s, winning four of the first five world cups, but have become less prominent with the ascendancy of the Netherlands, Germany, New Zealand, Australia and Spain since the late 1980s, as grass playing surfaces were replaced with artificial turf (which conferred increased importance on athleticism). Other notable men’s nations include Argentina, England (who combine with other British “Home Nations” to form the Great Britain side at Olympic events) and Korea. Despite recent downfall in international rankings, Pakistan still holds a record four World Cup wins.The Netherlands was the predominant women’s team before field hockey was added to Olympic events. In the early 1990s, Australia emerged as the strongest women’s country although retirement of a number of players weakened the team. Other important women’s teams are Argentina, China, Korea, Germany and South Africa.
I guess the point is that if football popularity decreases, something has to fill the void. As football is a men’s sport, chances are a different men’s sport will replace it.
It is odd that womens professional sports seem limited to golf and tennis. The WNBA is successful, but the infusion of resources by the NBA gave it an advantage that no other sport has. And I just don’t think many men care. In contrast, I continue to think that a well-run women’s professional soccer league would be the best chance for domestic success.
If American football becomes a fringe sport, then it will probably still thrive at the college level. In fact, if professional football would cease to exist as we know it, then college football could potentially be more popular since the sport’s origins are there. Maybe the type of kids who would play the game would also differ, and that itself may make the game safer. (Tommy Lee Jones does not seem to suffer any physical ailments from playing football at Harvard, and I bet Gerald Ford had a better memory than Ronald Reagan.)
But what makes the future of lacrosse interesting is that it is a sport that the USA could “export” to the rest of the world (since the sport’s origins are here). Field hockey seems like an adaptation of ice hockey but without the speed and skills of playing on ice. If a game would comprise of players using sticks to score goals with a ball, then lacrosse seems more interesting as a spectator sport than field hocky. Who knows? Lacrosse could one day be an Olympics sport.
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