American Athletic Conference Lacrosse: Who Could Go D1?
Expansion talk has returned. Quarantine is boring. I fell into a slump. I’ve built the Yankees into a .500 franchise on MLB The Show. I’ve rebuilt a nuclear wasteland in Fallout 4. And I have Cam Newton running read options with Saquon Barkley in Madden 20. I’ve been lazy, but that stops today. I decided to stop posting expansion articles, for a time, to keep from oversaturating everyone. If I kept posting them daily, I worried they’d all sound the same.
In the past, we’ve talked about D1 SEC and Big 12 lacrosse. Today, we’re looking at a smaller conference. Everyone dreams of Big Ten, ACC, or SEC expansion. No one talks about the American Athletic Conference (AAC). I’m changing that.
You’d be surprised. AAC schools are attractive expansion options. Most are located in or near traditional hotspots. Each school has fancy facilities. The conference is looking for ways to increase their brand. Lacrosse could help. The addition of lacrosse would draw a different demographic of students. Especially for Southern schools accepting more Yankees. Of course, schools must be willing to add a women’s sport to counteract Title IX’s scholarship imbalance. We’ll get into that. The good news? Navy currently has a team and plays in the Patriot League. Maybe someone will decide to follow suit.
I’ve broken this article into three parts. There are schools that seem viable. Schools that might make sense. And schools that have no chance. The listing will be in that order.
Who Makes Sense?
Could Ohio add another lacrosse team? That’s the million-dollar question. Besides Ohio State, Cincinnati is Ohio’s flagship university (sorry Ohio). The Bearcats would instantly challenge Ohio State for talented in-state recruits and quickly surpass Cleveland State. Cincinnati is four hours from Pittsburgh. The Bearcats would be a nuisance on the recruiting trail in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
The university has lacrosse experience. Cincinnati fields a competitive women’s team. Men’s lacrosse could use their facilities. Games could be played in Sheakley Athletics Center. Cincinnati has a successful football team. A small portion of football revenue could support lacrosse (if needed and only early on). Also, Cincinnati just cut their men’s soccer program. There’s an opening for men’s lacrosse without the need to add a women’s sport (Thanks Eric for providing the news!).
The Bearcats belong in the Patriot League. They’re close to Lehigh and Lafayette. They’d be competitive within four years. If anyone can challenge Ohio State for in-state supremacy, it’s Cincinnati. Let’s give Cincinnati, Ohio a winning team. Give them Bearcats lacrosse! Ever since the Ohio Machine folded, Ohio has been craving a new team to support.
This is a dream choice. I wish Temple would add men’s lacrosse. The Owls would dominate. First, Temple is in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is considered the mecca of lacrosse. Every lacrosse championship is held there. Temple would instantly steal in-state recruits from Lehigh, Drexel, and Villanova. The Owls have guaranteed pipelines from Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Temple has a women’s lacrosse program. The foundation is there. Facilities are in place. The Owls are a perfect fit for the Big East. They’re right by Villanova. Speaking of Villanova, Temple is one of two Big Five Philadelphia schools without men’s lacrosse (La Salle). If it’s worked for others, it’ll work for them. The Owls could add softball with lacrosse. Scholarship issue fixed.
Temple is in a perfect place. Give them two years and they’ll be competitive. Temple would receive support. Fans would attend games. People would buy merch. They’re enough lacrosse fans in Philadelphia to help fund a program. Perhaps a wealthy Philadelphia donor would be interested.
The Huskies had D1 lacrosse. Unfortunately, the program was cut. Would Connecticut give men’s lacrosse another shot?
Connecticut has issues. First, the school is run poorly. The athletic department isn’t profitable. This partially falls on football. The football team is so bad, they left the conference. UConn is going all in on being a basketball school. They seem to be retracting athletic support, not increasing.
UConn has women’s lacrosse. The facilities are there. The issue is Title IX. Connecticut has hockey and football. Both sports devour scholarships. The Huskies would have to be okay with adding another women’s sport (volleyball). The university doesn’t seem to have a financially strong support base. If it did, the football team wouldn’t be operating in the negative. Still, location wise, Connecticut is a great expansion choice.
A forgotten conference member. No one talks about East Carolina. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad choice. The campus is located in beautiful Greenville, North Carolina. The Pirates would have no issue luring northeastern talent. I know plenty of New Jersians that visit North Carolina. The men’s team could use the women’s lacrosse field.
The Pirates are a perfect fit for the SoCon. I could see East Carolina mirroring Richmond or High Point in five years.
University of Central Florida
An interesting choice. UCF’s brand has grown in the past decade. First, Blake Bortles led UCF to a Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor (2013). In 2017, UCF went undefeated and claimed the national championship. If you’re a college football fan, you’ve heard of UCF.
UCF’s athletic department has been creative with growing their brand. The self-claimed title was a hit. Whether you loved or hated it, you were talking about it. The campus is massive. UCF has a student population of 66,183. People want to go here. Recruiting wouldn’t be an issue. Who doesn’t want to live near Disney World, Sea World, and Universal Studios? Harry Potter World rocks.
Games could be played at the soccer and track complex. To solve Title IX issues, UCF could add women’s gymnastics. With a large alumni base, it may be easier to find funding. Who knows? There might be a wealthy donor willing to give lacrosse a shot.
UCF would instantly compete in the SoCon. They’d promptly dominate in-state recruiting. Florida’s talent level has grown. Jacksonville claims it’s the capital of southern lacrosse. If UCF pulled the trigger, there’d be a new capital.
University of South Florida
The Bulls could make sense. They’re similar to UCF. That said, their brand isn’t as large.
I just want lacrosse in New Orleans. This ain’t happening.
Memphis, Tennessee is a tough place to sell lacrosse. Tennessee lacrosse is growing; however, there isn’t nearly enough local support for a team.
Southern Methodist University
The only way Texas gets D1 lacrosse is if Texas University adds a team.
Same as SMU. Texas University is our only hope. They’d have to come first.
There’s practically no lacrosse in Oklahoma. Plus, travel expenses would be high. I doubt there’s any potential interest (in the next fifty years).
Who do you want to add D1 men’s lacrosse? Would any of these programs be successful? Should some of my “maybe” and “no chance” schools be more heavily considered? Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can comment directly onto this article by subscribing. By subscribing, you’ll be notified whenever I publish a new article. Any and all support is appreciated. Hopefully this helps keep you entertained during quarantine. I’m going crazy cooped up! Thank you for reading and go AAC lacrosse!