Grand Canyon Decides to Drop Program
Grand Canyon University, a Division II school in Phoenix, Ariz., that started its men's lacrosse program in 2008, will announce on Friday that it will be dropping the program at the conclusion of the 2011 season, according to athletic Director Keith Baker.
"This will be the last year of NCAA intercollegiate lacrosse for us," said Baker.
Although the Antelopes have one of the most remote locations in NCAA lacrosse, Baker said the move was not purely a financial one for the administration. The decision to eliminate men's lacrosse came amid discussions by the university to initiate a transition to the NCAA Division I level.
If that move is successful, Grand Canyon did not view the sport as a viable option
"There is just really nothing out west in the Division I market besides the University of Denver and the Air Force Academy, so there was a really depleted field of competition for us," said Baker. "The idea is if we somehow obtain Division I membership, there is not a niche for us out here to have a good level of rivalry or scheduling."
In addition, with the capped number of scholarships available to male athletes in NCAA Division II -- a number that the Grand Canyon athletic department has already reached -- even if the university stayed in its current division, it would not be able to fully fund the lacrosse program from this point forward.
"The idea was if we're utilizing athletics as more of a marketing tool to show off our success, why are we offering programs we can't fully fund? Let's just [end the program] now and move on," said Baker.
The first question asked by the coaching staff and student-athletes was whether the team could operate at its current funding level and participate in the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association – the national non-varsity league that has a large presence in the western part of the country. While he wouldn't commit to anything at this point, Baker said there might be an avenue to have partial funding for an MCLA version of the Antelopes in the future.
There are no automatic qualifiers in NCAA Division II, so Grand Canyon's demise doesn't competitively impact the newly formed Western Intercollegiate Lacrosse Assocation, of which the Antelopes were a member with Notre Dame de Namur, Mesa State, Adams State and Dominican (Calif.). It will resonate financially as those four remaining schools attempt to fill the two dates that will be vacant on their schedule.