The SEC East Needs Lacrosse
The SEC. The NCAA’s best conference. A conference loaded with tradition. You have LSU football. Florida gymnastics. Arkansas cross country. Auburn swimming and diving. Name a sport. The SEC has a championship for it. Could the SEC snag one in lacrosse? They could, if it was added.
Today, I’ll be covering the SEC East and what each team would look like (if D1). I’ve already done a piece on the SEC West. Unlike the West, I feel the East is better suited to host division one lacrosse. Schools are located near traditional hotbeds. States like Florida and Georgia are seeing an upswing in talent. Plus, two schools host women’s lacrosse.
Each school has three inherent factors. If you want more in-depth coverage on these, read my SEC West article. I’ll briefly mention them here. First, southern weather is superior. Games won’t be played in ice storms. Second, schools have enough capital to fund division one programs. Financial support won’t be an issue. Third, the facilities are top notch. Games can be played in soccer stadiums (perhaps football). Teams could host rivalry games before/after spring football games to boost attendance.
There are obstacles. Title IX is the largest. I’m not going into that. Here, let’s pretend Title IX isn’t an issue. The scholarships are balanced. The SEC is set for expansion.
Schools are listed in order of 2020 SEC East football standings. A school’s placement means nothing towards their viability.
Georgia would be a welcome addition to division one lacrosse. Athens is one of the nicest college towns in America. Visitors consistently comment on the town’s beauty. People want to live in Athens.
Lacrosse has grown in Georgia. There were two professional lacrosse teams in Atlanta. The Georgia Swarm are successful. The Atlanta Blaze called it quits and moved to Philadelphia. Georgia has an appetite for lacrosse (the Blaze could have stayed).
The program won’t struggle to attract blue chip talent. Georgia is a national brand. The Bulldogs will poach talent from Florida, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Plus, there’s in-state talent.
Georgia can already afford cross-country road games. The Bulldogs visited UCLA and Concordia-Irvine. There’s money supporting the program.
The Dawgs are relatively successful. Georgia is 26-19 since 2017. They have talent. I can see Georgia becoming a top twenty program within four years.
Final thoughts on Georgia. The university should have UGA attend all home games. Now that’d be a way to have fans attend games. Host a “bring your dog” night. Fans can meet UGA before faceoff. Live mascots at lacrosse games is something everyone can get behind.
Florida is an interesting choice. The Gators have a division one women’s team. The Gators upset Maryland 15-14 in 2020. Florida attracts talented players.
Florida has access to elite in-state talent. People will play here. Lots of folks dream of living here. Like Georgia, Florida is a major name brand. Fans hear “Florida lacrosse” and get excited.
The Gators have enjoyed recent success. Since the 2016 hiring of Garrett Hanrahan, Florida is 40-23. If the club team gets good players, a division one team would too. I could see Florida competing for national championships within eight years.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Tennessee lacrosse. I know the area is beautiful. I’ve seen photos. If there’s local talent, I’m unaware. Like Mississippi, I feel Tennessee has a small lacrosse community (I could be completely wrong though). To start, the Vols would have to rely on importing recruits.
Performance wise, Tennessee must continue their gradual improvement. Since 2017, the Vols are 15-23. The record is somewhat deceiving. Tennessee was 8-2 in 2020 before the season’s cancellation. Head coach Tyler Corcoran is leading them in the right direction.
I want Tennessee lacrosse to be a thing. Imagine Smokey attending rivalry games against Georgia and Vanderbilt. He could run around the crease after every goal. So cute!
Now here’s a potential D1 program. The Gamecocks are elite. Their 2019 MCLA national title was no fluke. South Carolina is 48-6 since 2018. Winning is expected. That’s Alabama football level consistency. Barring the 2020 season’s cancellation, South Carolina may have hoisted the 2020 crown. They’re that good. So good, in fact, that I believe they’re outgrowing MCLA competition. My high school football team had this issue. They belonged in the 4A division. For years, my school crushed competition. Winning four state titles in six years. We almost went undefeated for three straight years. Eventually, Colorado’s athletics board had enough. We were too good for 4A. We moved up to 5A (Christian McCaffery played in this division).
South Carolina has the same issue. They’re becoming too dominant for club lacrosse. Let’s move them up and see them flourish. The Gamecocks would become instant hits. Recruits from North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland would flock in abundance. Plus, there’s a lot of schools nearby. The travel budget wouldn’t be ridiculous. Imagine an annual South Carolina v North Carolina lacrosse meeting. Sure, the Gamecocks would take their lumps, but lacrosse Twitter would explode when they finally upset the Tar Heels.
South Carolina needs to make this happen. I believe they’re in position to be the most successful MCLA turned D1 programs in history.
Bad news Big Blue Nation. Kentucky lacrosse is practically nonexistent. I had a hard time finding information. First, their Twitter account is suspended. Second, they scheduled one MCLA game for 2020 (according to the MCLA website). I read on social media the team left MCLA competition in 2016. Apparently, a lack of coaches and student interest hurt the program. Kentucky has recovered. I found their Instagram and saw they finished 4-0 in NCLL competition. That said, Kentucky going D1 is a longshot. There’s a better shot the Cats adopt women’s lacrosse (to combat Louisville).
On Facebook, a lot of you clamored for Vanderbilt to add a team. Vanderbilt is a solid choice. First, the school currently funds a division one women’s team. They’re good. Second, Vanderbilt is practically an Ivy League school. Top notch academics. Third, Vanderbilt has that preppy atmosphere rich kid recruits would love. Fourth, Nashville is a wonderful city. Lot’s to do there. Student-athletes won’t lack for things to do.
The Commodores have struggled since 2018. Their overall record is 7-19. They need to start winning consistently to push the university towards announcing a varsity squad. My only worry about Vanderbilt? The school doesn’t seem to fund athletics. I’ve read countless articles about Vanderbilt’s football team struggling with funds. If the university won’t support football (the money maker), it’s hard to see them creating a non-revenue sport. Plus, they’d have to add women’s teams to counteract Title IX.
The state of Missouri houses quality lacrosse. You see this at the division two level. Lindenwood and Rockhurst consistently compete for conference championships. Missouri would attract talented recruits from the Midwest. I’d expect them to hit Colorado hard. It’d be neat to see Denver v Missouri.
The Tigers have been competitive in MCLA play. Since 2018, Missouri is 18-15. Missouri is a longshot. They’re too far away from lacrosse hotbeds. I don’t think the interest is there. Here’s to hoping though!
There’s quality options and longshots in the SEC East. I can see South Carolina, Florida, or Georgia adding a team in the next ten years. It depends on the sport’s growth. The best way to force this? Push it. Bombard SEC offices with requests for division one men’s lacrosse. Maybe they’ll listen. We have to show the demand is there.
Do you want SEC East lacrosse? Would you be excited about NCAA SEC men’s lacrosse? Which team listed would be the most successful? Who is the biggest longshot? 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. If the demand is there, I’ll be doing a series like this for every major conference. I have a lot of free time in quarantine. Regardless, thank you for reading! SEC! SEC! SEC!