The Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) will sponsor men’s and women’s lacrosse beginning next season, for the first time since 2013.
The conference dropped the sport after the 2013 season when Centenary College dropped their lacrosse program, leaving only three SCAC members with lacrosse teams.
“You have to have four [schools] in the SCAC to have a conference sport, so Centenary dropped their program and just left us, Southwestern, and Colorado,” University of Dallas Athletics Director Dick Strockbine said.
Ironically, UD began its men’s lacrosse program in 2011 when it was looking to join the SCAC because it was thought that it would give the school an advantage. However, just a year after UD joined the conference, seven teams left the SCAC at the conclusion of the 2011-2012 academic year, according to the SCAC website.
Now, Centenary plans to resurrect their men’s program beginning next year and their women’s program in the 2019-2020 academic year, according to SCAC commissioner Dwayne Hanberry. Additionally, Johnson & Wales, which sponsors both men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, will join the SCAC beginning in the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year.
Initially, the conference will not mandate a regular season for lacrosse but will sponsor a conference tournament at the end of the year.
“We want to see if all of our schools are back up the way they say they are and are going to be able to function in the method we’re hoping they will, so at least initially we are not going to mandate a regular season schedule,” Hanberry said. “We will certainly encourage it and hope that a lot of our schools will play each other.”
Next year’s men’s tournament is tentatively scheduled to be held in the Dallas area, according to Hanberry, while the women’s tournament would be somewhere in Colorado.
The men’s program would have five teams initially while the women would have four, until Centenary’s women’s program is established.
Hanberry says the conference is looking to increase its number to seven teams, which is the minimum requirement in order to qualify automatically for the NCAA tournament.
“We’re hoping that we’ll get some more internal growth, I can’t really speak to names because nothing’s in stone but there are some schools in our league that are current members [who] are talking about adding lacrosse,” Hanberry said. “We also are exploring some affiliate membership options.”
However, the league is not rushing into expansion until it sees how things start out.
“We want to make sure we don’t jump in too fast; we want to make sure our programs get established,” Hanberry said. “I think the goal is one, get it reestablished, two, get some more schools in and shoot toward an AQ, and I think if we get to that point you would see us start doing a regular season schedule.”
The conference will be one of the westernmost lacrosse leagues in Division III.
“Having a conference out here in the middle of the country I think is huge for the game of lacrosse because there’s no western conference, no Division III lacrosse conference pretty much west of the Mississippi River,” UD men’s lacrosse Head Coach Sam Ashton said.
The conference will likely have a large disparity between the teams in on-field performance. Colorado College has routinely strong men’s and women’s programs. In the 2018 season, their men’s team is 13-1 and the women’s is 8-0, according to laxpower.com.
Johnson & Wales, meanwhile, is transitioning from being a club team to having varsity lacrosse starting next year, according to Hanberry.
“The level of competition is high and they’re on the bottom, but I think ultimately as everyone continues to get better it’ll only make the conference a little bit better,” Ashton said.
However, the goal is to continue the growth of lacrosse, as well as increase opportunities for SCAC schools.
“It’s all about the growth; Colorado College will forever be the pinnacle of that DIII and western lacrosse … What we’re pushing for is to close the gap a little bit and be one of those top three teams in the conference,” Ashton said.
“I think the primary driver is it’s a chance to perhaps sponsor a sport that is still growing and that our schools will have an advantage for in the recruiting war,” Hanberry said. “When you’re in the Division III business, at the end of the day it’s about offering opportunities to students … What drives us is trying to find different ways to present those types of opportunities.”