Big 12 Lacrosse: Who's Viable for D1 Expansion?
Lacrosse is growing. With a mounting demand, fans crave more division one teams. Currently, schools like St. Bonaventure have added lacrosse. It’s great to see expansion from smaller schools; however, fans want a sexy addition. Someone with a “wow” factor. I recently wrote about SEC expansion. You can find them here and here (SEC West and SEC East).
The response was incredible. Lot’s of folks began discussing possible expansion teams. One commenter left an interesting response. He wanted heavier focus on the monetary aspect. At the end, he asked what the Big 12’s position on lacrosse is. An interesting question. It got me thinking. Would a Big 12 school add men’s lacrosse? Unlike the SEC, the Big 12 doesn’t have many viable options. Most schools are too far (or lack the funds) to realistically field a team. That said, I found three feasible choices. Those are Texas, West Virginia, and Texas Christian (TCU). Other schools I considered were Baylor, Oklahoma, and Kansas (just because I ran a high school cross country meet there).
Some basics first. Each Big 12 school receives $38.8 million, per year, from conference headquarters. SEC schools receive $44.6 million. While less money than their SEC counterparts, Big 12 schools still make bank. Money isn’t an issue. Second, lacrosse is growing near my chosen schools. Texas is a growing hotbed. West Virginia is near all the hotspots.
Each school has the facilities. Games can be played in soccer or football stadiums. Imagine Texas vs Denver hosted in Darrell K Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium. They could do it after the Spring football game. Surely some folks would stay to watch. Heck, invite Bevo!
The largest obstacle is Title IX. Schools must have the same amount of scholarships for both male and female athletes. Football teams make adding lacrosse difficult. Football consumes male scholarships. If men’s lacrosse imbalances scholarships, they can’t add it (barring the addition of a women’s sport).
Those are the basics. Now, let’s get into the specifics of each individual school. Texas first.
Fans dream of Texas University adding men’s lacrosse. It’s one of the largest name brand schools in America. They even have their own sports network (Longhorn Network). Everything is bigger in Texas. That includes the school’s affluence. Texas has the nation’s second largest athletic budget. Know what helps? Lots of wealthy donors. Texas has them.
The Longhorns have a successful MCLA program. Texas is a consistent MCLA tournament team. And they have support. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Texas is the only MCLA team to have their own lacrosse facility. That’s right. The Longhorns play at Caven Lacrosse Center. Know who funded it? Wealthy donors who support lacrosse. Texas has lacrosse-oriented donors. Would they be willing to cough up more dough?
The program would have access to local talent. Texas is a budding hotbed. The Longhorns wouldn’t have an issue signing out-of-state talent. Kids everywhere would fight for roster spots. Imagine the money a Texas lacrosse summer camp would make.
Speaking of players, 55% of Texas student-athletes receive less than half of the tuition cost in scholarships. Lacrosse players wouldn’t receive those big scholarships. The school could use player payments to help fund the program. It would help cover expenses.
Scholarship room is an issue. Football kills. It makes it tough to add men’s teams. The good news is Texas has been creative in the past. The university has added women’s sports, with large rosters, to help balance football’s scholarship imbalance. Women’s rowing is a prime example. At one time, rowing had a roster of ninety. That’s larger than the football team! If Texas added men’s lacrosse, they could pull a Baylor. Recently, Baylor added women’s tumbling and acrobatics. The sport requires a large roster. This could balance everything out. The Longhorns have fixed scholarship imbalances before. Would they do it again?
Scheduling is problematic. There are no teams nearby. The Longhorns would have an expensive travel budget. Games against Air Force, Denver, and Utah would be easy. But that’s three teams. Opponents are far away. The SoCon is a viable conference.
There have been rumors of Texas going D1 in the past. Let’s hope.
The Mountaineers are blessed with an ideal location. Unlike Texas, opponents aren’t hard to find. West Virginia would be a perfect addition to the Big East. I’d love to see West Virginia matchup against Villanova, Georgetown, and Providence.
Recruiting would be easy. Lot’s of talent nearby. The Mountaineers would wreak havoc in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. They’d quickly improve. Morgantown is a classic college town. Recruits will be drawn to the vibe. Who doesn’t want to burn couches on football gameday?
West Virginia is cheap. WVU athletes are given up to $2400-$2700 annually to cover full cost of attendance (COA). Full cost of attendance is not tuition. It accounts for textbooks, housing, food, etc. Also, if someone receives 50% of a full ride scholarship, the athlete only receives half the COA money. This stipend is one of the lowest in the Big 12. Students may not want to attend a school that pinches pennies.
West Virginia currently sponsors 17 varsity sports. The university awards, a maximum of, 260.5 scholarships. Men’s lacrosse is given 12.6 scholarships. The university would need to find a women’s sport that covers this many scholarship athletes. Women’s acrobatics and tumbling could work. The sport requires a large roster. It’s cheap too.
If West Virginia pulled the trigger on lacrosse, they would become a force. Give them four years and they’d contend for Big East titles. Give them ten years and they’ll be competing for Championship Weekend slots.
Texas Christian (TCU)
TCU is an interesting pick. I could see lacrosse working here. TCU is relatively small. The university could look to grow a student population of 10,489. Smaller schools add sports to increase attendance. In Big 12 figures, TCU is a small school. The university is private. This means there’s no cost difference for in-state students.
Time for some math. TCU’s tuition costs $51,660 per year. Men’s lacrosse is given 12.6 scholarships. A lacrosse team fields forty players (generally). If scholarship money is divided equally, each player would receive $16,272. TCU would still receive $35,388 from each player (per year). This doesn’t include non-tuition fees (housing, dining). I did some research and found the average cost of a women’s lacrosse team is $688,599. Men’s lacrosse costs more so we’ll bump that to $1 million. The university would make $1,415,520 off student fees alone (per year). If the program cost $1 million per year, student fees could cover the cost. Hell, the school would profit. The numbers are based off averages, but private schools have a higher chance to gain revenue from nonrevenue sports. It’s what D2/D3 schools do.
Like Texas, TCU would have scheduling issues. They’d have to do something similar to Texas. Plus, the university would add another women’s sport. There’s potential after crunching the numbers.
Big 12 lacrosse is a longshot. I doubt it happens anytime soon. We could see it in fifty years. That said, there are schools we could see expand sooner than others. Texas, West Virginia, and Texas Christian fit that criteria. The only way these realities become possible is if we, the fans, make it known that this is what we want. If we prove there’s a demand, it may happen. Keep quiet about it and it never will. You decide what side you’re on.
Do you want Big 12 lacrosse? What Big 12 school should go D1? Is there a school I missed? Whatever your thoughts, air them by connecting with me on Twitter or Instagram. You can also 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. Regardless, thank you for reading. I plan on switching up my content after this article. Expansion articles will return though. Let’s go Big 12 lacrosse!