Grand Canyon Still on the Move
A year after Grand Canyon University, located in Phoenix, Ariz., moved from NCAA Division II to MCLA Division II, the 'Lopes are on the move again. At the spring meeting of the Southwestern Lacrosse Conference, GCU was approved for a move up to the MCLA Division I Pacific Division (joining the likes of Arizona, Arizona State and San Diego State) for the 2013 season.
At first blush, this would appear to be a move to bolster the competition level – the 'Lopes advanced to the MCLA tournament quarterfinals in their first run this spring – like 2011 D-II champion Davenport is doing this coming spring as well, and like San Diego and Montana have done before them.
Competition is a small part of the equation, but this move is all about money.
"We just could not get anybody to come here because there were no other MCLA D-II teams in town," said Manny Rapkin, GCU's second-year head coach. "Now teams can come into town for three games, which is awesome. They can come in here and get their three non-conference games for an at-large bid and we get ours. There are not many places where you can do that."
Because of the financial implications, it's nearly impossible for MCLA teams to travel over a weekend and only play one game, which put Grand Canyon at a huge disadvantage. It meant traveling to get all of the high-end games they needed to qualify for an at-large berth, and even the conference games meant repeated treks to Southern California.
"The big thing is getting our budget under control," Rapkin said. "It was a wake-up call when [the school] got the $35,000 bill for the SLC conference tournament and the trip to Greenville. I knew this was coming."
The move also coincides with Rapkin's desire to create a lacrosse monster in the desert, even if it's at the non-varsity level.
Rapkin was the former head coach at NCAA Division II Dominican (N.Y.) and the ability to sell an MCLA Division I team as opposed to the D-II variety will allow him to do that. He matriculated a 21-man class in 2012 and will welcome another 20 players this spring from nine different states (Arizona, Washington, New Jersey, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, California, Georgia, Maryland) and three different provinces of Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario).
"The players are pumped," Rapkin said. "We played four games that just weren't very good, and we could have beat Marymount (Calif.) by 40. Long Beach is in the middle of the pack and we hung 20 on them. The guys didn't want to play those games anymore and they are expensive games."
Grand Canyon isn't the easiest school to pitch to recruits. While it's located in a weather-friendly area, GCU is relatively expensive and is a dry campus – a stark contrast to Arizona State just down the road. It does, however, have a 70:30 ratio of women to men and now a burgeoning lacrosse program with national aspirations.
Playing the likes of Chapman, Clemson, Texas and Davenport, along with aforementioned Sun Devils, will be a stiff test to this nomadic program, but Rapkin feels he has all the tools to make a smooth transition. Again.
"We know we can compete."