Mar 6, 2020 - Sports

Why men's college lacrosse enjoys parity at the top

Lacrosse players

Photo: M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

From 1978 to 2009, five schools — Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, North Carolina and Virginia — won every Division I men's lacrosse national championship. Since then, they have won just three.

The state of play: Meanwhile, four first-time champions were crowned last decade — Duke, Loyola (Md.), Denver and Yale — and three of the current top 20 teams — No. 2 Penn State, No. 7 Maryland and No. 19 Ohio State — play in the Big Ten, a lacrosse conference that didn't even exist until 2015.

What's happening: Lacrosse has been the fastest-growing high school team sport for the past two decades and has expanded far beyond its east coast roots, but the number of men's D-I programs has remained relatively flat, especially compared to the women's game (75 men's D-I squads vs. 118 for women).

"With a larger talent pool to draw from and a similar number of programs competing for recruits, a lot more teams are now landing what used to be top-10 talent. It's kind of flattened that pyramid at the top and allowed programs like ours to climb the ladder."
Mike Murphy, Penn men's lacrosse coach, tells Axios

Between the lines: While football powers like Florida, USC and Oregon have added women's lacrosse programs in recent years, they haven't added men's teams partly due to Title IX.

  • "Vast football squads, without any female equivalent, must be balanced with several women's teams; creating another men's team only makes the math more difficult," writes NYT's Matthew Gutierrez.

The big picture: Michigan, Utah and Marquette are the only three big-time athletic programs that have gone D-I in men's lacrosse this century, but as the sport continues to grow in popularity, more could follow their lead.

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