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CU men’s lacrosse just ended one of its most successful seasons ever with a 9-6 victory over in-state rival Colorado State University. They finished as the No. 2 team in the country and one of the favorites to win the club national championship. That raised the question: Should they move up from club to Division I, like the women’s team did this year? CUI sportswriters Tommy Wood and Andrew Haubner debate.
Tommy Wood: I think this is the perfect time for our team to move up to Division 1. As mentioned above, this team is good. Obviously not Division 1 championship good, but if they win the national championship this year, they will have nothing left to accomplish at club level. This team has had a run of sustained success for Coach John Galvin’s entire tenure. It’s time for them to take on the new challenges that Division 1 would bring.
Andrew Haubner: Having CU lacrosse as a Division 1 team would be great, and I’m a huge advocate of it. But I will play the devil’s advocate for arguments sake. The NBA team Miami Heat will be the first to tell you that there is always something left to accomplish. CU just beat CSU for the first time in five years a couple of weeks ago. They have yet to win a national title, and they have yet to have an undefeated season. Plus, building a Division I program to the level the club team is at now would take years.
Wood: It would be a difficult transition, but I would rather see Colorado build something at the next level than continue to dominate club. At a certain point, there’s a “yeah, but…” element; yeah, you’re a good program, but you’re a club team. Moving to Division 1 would make the team more prominent and prestigious. It would raise lacrosse’s profile in Colorado and give CU a huge recruiting edge over CSU. The Rams have been the better team recently, but if an in-state recruit has to choose between playing D-I or playing club and living in Fort Collins, there’s not even a choice.
Haubner: I agree with your point, but if CU moves up and CSU doesn’t, then the rivalries change. The lacrosse rivalries become the University of Denver and Air Force. The transition is never easy. Take Michigan as an example: They just entered Division 1 with a successful club team roster and ended up with a 5-11 record that included several blowout losses. DU finished ninth in the country and took three of the highest-level recruits from Colorado this past season. Yes, you’ll be able to take recruits from CSU’s club team, but good luck taking them from a perennial powerhouse like DU. At least for now.
Wood: “At least for now.” That’s the key. CU would struggle mightily at first, especially because the Buffaloes’ four best players are graduating. But moving to Division 1 would put the Buffs in a position to at least compete with DU for the best recruits in the state. If CU builds itself into a D-I contender, playing for coach Galvin and going to school in Boulder instead of not-really-downtown Denver would be an intriguing prospect for recruits who would otherwise not think twice about going to DU. Plus, were CU to move to D-I, it would be better to do so with a young team like they’ll have next year. Yes, three senior All-Americans might ease the transition, but they would also create unrealistic expectations. A young team would struggle initially, learn on the job and hopefully become a competitive D-I team by their senior year.
Haubner: Although they could be competitive, I still have my reservations about lacrosse in terms of popularity. The sport draws significant crowds back East, where lacrosse is very important to the large — and mostly affluent — suburban communities. But what will it do here? CU fans are notoriously fickle. If you can’t fill a stadium even halfway for a rebuilding football team or fill the Coors Events Center every weekend for a basketball top-25 team in the country, what hope will a lacrosse team have that struggles out of the gates? Given the budget deficit the school currently faces, it just wouldn’t be cost-effective to constantly have these players travel to the Midwest and East Coast.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writers Tommy Wood and Andrew Haubner at Thomas.firstname.lastname@example.org and Andrew.email@example.com.