OTS – Utah Lacrosse Builds Toward Division I Dream

from the Salt Lake Tribune and the photo was taken by Michael Mangum for the Tribune

 

Author’s Note:  I am using the abbreviation OTS for when FLN finds an article ‘outside the state’ that might interest our readership, whether in a general interest way or in a more tangible way.  If the University of Utah is going to be able to develop a Division I Men’s program that will open up more opportunities for the kids.  One IMG student is already committed there according to the article.  One thing I found interesting about this article is that Utah’s athletic director indicated the issue is making sure that the funding makes the program financially sound . . . there is no real indication that Title IX is an issue with the school currently as the college is still a male majority, which is different from the trend in so many colleges where female majority is becoming the norm.

 

Excerpt (this was published 4/22/17):

 

When Josh Stout tries to explain it to his friends, it’s hard to understand.

Yes, he plays on Utah’s lacrosse team. No, it’s not actually an NCAA-sanctioned sport, and it doesn’t fall under the university’s athletic department. Yes, they play other teams from other states. No, they’re not on scholarship.

But Utah lacrosse is better understood once it is seen in person. The team practices on the track and in the indoor football facility. They lift in the same weight rooms as the Division I teams on campus. Their coach was an assistant for the Division I national champion last year, and he fields a staff of Major League Lacrosse veterans.

They sell tickets to games — actual tickets with printed team logos — and they hire referees, stream their games online and send press releases of their results. At a recent game, a public address announcer rumbled, “Get ready for the fastest game on two feet!” as Utah lined up in matching uniforms to play under the lights on Utah’s soccer field, with a staff of security and maintenance workers on hand.

“Not a lot of people understand, ‘Yeah, we’re trying to go DI,'” says Stout, a freshman in the program. “But we look the part.”

It’s a more elegant version of “fake it til you make it” — Utah lacrosse looks, for all appearances, like a Division I team. Quietly, they’ve assembled the financial backing and following of a Division I team. And perhaps as soon as two years from now, that’s what they could be.

What’s going on here?

Utah’s club lacrosse team has been around for a while. But it has only been kicked into overdrive in the last year, when the program got the attention of David Neeleman.

If the name sounds familiar, consider that Neeleman has helped found four airlines, most notably JetBlue. He took his latest airline, a Brazilian company named Azul, public two weeks ago. A millionaire who mostly lives in Connecticut, he got caught up in another passion closer to the ground: lacrosse.

His sons played the sport, which has a sizeable following on the East Coast. When his son Seth Neeleman, a strapping 6-foot-4 defenseman, was reconsidering attending Loyola University in Maryland on a lacrosse scholarship as he was preparing to return from an LDS Church mission last year, David started hunting for other options where Seth could pursue both sport and spirituality.

He settled on Utah, the college where he had dropped out as an undergrad, but a school still dear to his heart. It had a struggling program run by Rick Kladis, who wanted to remain involved, but was looking for someone else to take on coaching duties.

An entrepreneur at heart, Neeleman saw an opportunity — for lacrosse and for the university.

“I saw a way to put Utah on the map in lacrosse,” he said. “The sport is growing, and I talked to people who think the balance will shift West.”

Read the rest HERE