Don't expect Big Ten lacrosse at Iowa

Scott Dochterman
Published: June 3 2013 | 1:36 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 4:06 pm in
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Another week, another new sport for the Big Ten Conference.

Monday, the league announced world-renowned Johns Hopkins as an affiliate league member for men's lacrosse beginning with the 2014-15 school year. The Big Ten now will offer men's and women's lacrosse, its 27th and 28th sponsored sports. It also will provide league-owned BTN more inventory in markets in which the league hopes to expand its subscriber base.

Lacrosse's popularity among eastern schools is well-known, as demonstrated by ESPN's consistent coverage of the sport. The Big Ten will sponsor sports once six league schools offer it.

Big Ten newcomers Rutgers and Maryland already boast national success in lacrosse, and Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State also compete in men's lacrosse. Johns Hopkins is the most-successful men's lacrosse program with 44 national titles. Johns Hopkins has been an independent since 1883.

Johns Hopkins will not field a women's lacrosse team in Big Ten play. The other five schools plus Northwestern, which has won seven national titles in the last nine years, will sponsor women's lacrosse. Michigan begins women's play in 2014-15.

The additions bolster the league's profile, but no public school makes money on the sport. According to numbers provided to The Gazette via the Freedom of Information Act, the five schools combined to spend nearly $9.1 million on lacrosse in fiscal year 2012. Their revenues totaled $4.54 million, but Rutgers reported earnings equaling its expenses, which doesn't paint a true picture. The school's ticket revenues totaled $16,150 and direct institutional support was $565,900 for that season.

The numbers show why Iowa is unlikely to add lacrosse or any other sport to its 24-sport arsenal. Lacrosse -- and hockey, which the Big Ten sponsors beginning this fall -- is not native to Iowa or either of the boys' or girls' high school governing bodies.

If Iowa was to add another sport, men's soccer would make the most sense. A significant number of Iowa high schools play soccer so instate scholarship costs would stay modest. But that's doubtful to happen, either, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta told The Gazette last month.

"Men's soccer would be a geographical good decision but then that would impact either dropping other sports or adding more sports," Barta said. "You just don't add one sport and call it good. The resources for that then take away from the resources ... I certainly have some teams that are not yet winning championships. So until I have teams all clicking on all cylinders, it doesn't make sense for me to water down my resources. For the teams I already have, it doesn't seem fair."

Iowa spent $1.05 million on women's soccer in 2012. If Iowa was to spend the same amount for men's soccer, it likely would need to drop another male sport based on gender equity numbers. Golf, gymnastics and tennis all spent less than $700,000 in 2012.

Now if a donor gave the school millions of dollars to sponsor a new pair of sports, such as men's and women's hockey or lacrosse, Barta would listen.

"If you want to create that hypothetical, if someone brought me a check for $110 million and wanted me to add a particular sport, my guess is I could figure out a way to add that sport," Barta said.

Like all Big Ten schools but Nebraska, Johns Hopkins is a member of the Association of American Universities, a premier research consortium. There's no word yet as to whether Johns Hopkins will join the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the Big Ten's academic research wing. The CIC includes the league's current 12 schools, Rutgers, Maryland and previous member Chicago.

 

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