Division I lacrosse could thrive at USC

first_imgHi, my name is Luke Holthouse, and I will play Division I lacrosse at USC before I graduate.Well, probably not. But I learned at my freshman orientation this summer that “ambitious” is one of the five traits of a USC student etched into Tommy Trojan’s statue, and I think Tommy would look much more intimidating if we replaced his bronze sword with a lacrosse stick.So what makes my goal so ambitious? For starters, USC doesn’t have a Division I men’s lacrosse team. Even if we did, I probably wouldn’t make the team because I’m not very good, but that’s more of a side note.I do play for the club team, which had a decent season last year, going 4-10 overall in its second year of existence. But our program has relatively little financial support compared to many of the other local clubs. In fact, the guy we hired as the head coach of the team this season resigned after one practice when he realized how hard it is to run a club sports team at USC.But with some more budget help from the school, the club could become a national powerhouse.USC made a big splash two years ago when it created a Division I women’s team that stands as a perfect example of how successful lacrosse programs can be established in SoCal.Once USC brought in Lindsay Munday — one of the top players on the U.S. national team and a former national championship winning coach at Northwestern — as the head coach, the program took off and finished a respectable 8-10 in its first season last year. This year’s incoming recruiting class for the women’s team was ranked as the 10th best in the country by Inside Lacrosse, and I’m betting the team is only a couple of seasons away from competing for a national championship.I think now would be a fantastic time for us to create one on the men’s side, so I’m calling on all Trojan fans out there that have a spare $10 million or so in their wallet to help me get it started.Lacrosse is either the oldest or newest sport in the country, depending on which half of it you’re from. The sport was first played by Native Americans centuries ago as a more of a military exercise than extracurricular activity, but has since adapted to one of the most popular sports around the area it was invented.For decades, the sport was only played in the Northeastern United States in places like Baltimore or Long Island, but the sport is finally sprouting across the Central, Southeastern and Pacific parts of the country.Inside Lacrosse magazine reported that over 275,000 kids played high school lacrosse in 2011, about a 20,000-kid or 7.8 percent increase from the year before. Last year, Peter Baum of Colgate University and a native of Portland, Ore. became the first player born on the western half of the United States to win the Tewaaraton Trophy, or lacrosse’s equivalent to the Heisman.The University of Denver, however, is still the only college west of the Mississippi River to field a varsity men’s program despite the increasing number of kids like me that started playing the sport in high school across the West Coast.USC has a truly unique opportunity to become a pioneer in the sport, as well as athletics in general, by adding a men’s team. There’s no doubt in my mind that lacrosse can become a hotbed sport in California, and enjoy the same popularity as baseball, water polo, soccer, volleyball, softball or really any other sport.California produced 128 Olympians at London last summer, making up 23 percent of all Americans at the Olympics. Our representation in the total population of the country is only about half of that at 12 percent, yet the year-round sunshine makes it much easier to play outdoor sports 12 months a year and gives West Coast athletes a leg up over athletes in colder climates.Not only would our program attract the best lacrosse players from San Diego and Orange County – many of whom already play Division I on the East Coast and would love nothing more than a free ride to start a new dynasty in their home state – but I think just as many top players from the East Coast would be interested in the beautiful weather, even more beautiful Song Girls and ever improving academics at USC.Though professional lacrosse does exist, the league is pretty small and very few lacrosse players make a career out of playing the sport. So the drawbacks of playing at a less established program are much smaller than they would be in a sport like football.Athletic facilities shouldn’t be a problem with the new McKay Center, though the school would have to make an investment into a reputable head coach and staff.Though there are about five other women’s lacrosse teams in California for USC to compete against, the men’s program would have to fly across the country about half the season and travel would be a larger expense.But the whole point of going Division I is so that we can be innovators in the sport and start the growth of college teams in the state.The biggest challenge to overcome for the potential team would be Title IX, as the school would probably have to add another varsity women’s program to maintain equal funding rates.The big women’s sport that isn’t Division I at USC that comes to mind is softball, but that would be a highly expensive project. The school would have to build a separate softball facility on campus rather than use pre-existing McAlister Field like the men’s lacrosse team probably would, hence my estimation of an 8-digit project. Someone from the urban planning department at the Price school would also have to figure out where to put that, but I think we’ll be able to figure that out.As President C. L. Max Nikias wrote in his welcome letter to students this year, “USC athletics is the glue that binds the Trojan Family.” Our proud sports program attracts students across the nation that want to be a part of the great fan experiences at USC. The pride created by the nearly hundred national championships USC teams have won is what makes our alumni network so strong and helps grow the school’s endowment to the point where it can fund all sorts of other projects.So I urge the USC athletic department to join me and the rest of the club lacrosse team at USC as we try to raise money for a potential Division I team that can contribute to the stellar athletics reputation that the Trojan name already carries. Follow Luke on Twitter @BirdsOnBats94last_img

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