The University of Michigan said Wednesday that it will spend up to $10 million on men’s and women’s varsity lacrosse facilities, joining Penn State and the University of Florida as traditional college athletic powers pouring resources into the sport.
I think that’s the biggest news in our sport since we went to a Final Four 20 years ago,” said Virginia coach Dom Starsia, who set the Division I career record for wins at 327 last weekend. “If Michigan provides a little spark, 10 years from now you could see the Big 10, Pac-10. We could see a dramatic change in the game.”
College lacrosse is getting a $10 million dose of big-time athletics as it grows from the province of private schools in the Northeast into a magnet for corporate sponsorships and alumni donations.
The interest state schools — with their booster clubs, conference television packages and football revenue — are paying lacrosse may threaten the dominance that private schools such as Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, have enjoyed.
“We are going to bring the money, coaching talent and recruiting that we believe will allow us to assume a position of national prominence in the sport,” Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon, 59, said in a telephone interview.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s lacrosse tournaments wind up this weekend. Virginia, Denver, Maryland and Duke are competing in Baltimore for the men’s championship; Maryland, Duke, North Carolina and Northwestern are playing in Stony Brook, New York, for the women’s title.
Michigan’s decision to elevate its club lacrosse teams has business sense behind it, said Brandon, who served as chief executive officer of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Domino’s Pizza Inc. (DPZ) from 1999 to 2010.
“The University of Florida spent $15 million on a stadium and fielded its first varsity women’s team two years ago. The Gators were ranked as high as No. 2 this season and made it into the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Penn State, with 38,500 undergrad students on its main campus, hired Tambroni in June 2010 and is spending about $2 million annually to fund its lacrosse teams.
Denver made the men’s tournament in its eighth year competing in Division I, the sport’s highest level, and this year hosted Villanova University in the first NCAA tournament game played west of the Mississippi River.