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Lacrosse beefs up Marquette’s athletics program

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Canada is known best for its hockey, but it’s a little known fact that it shares its designation as the country’s national sport with lacrosse. The game originated there and has slowly seeped into America’s athletic culture.

Over the past decade, lacrosse experienced the most growth in membership of any NCAA sport. Marquette Athletic Director Steve Cottingham announced in December that the university would soon join the lacrosse revolution.

“Lacrosse is a thrilling sport, loved by fans and participants, and a natural fit for Marquette,” Cottingham said in a press release. “The national growth of lacrosse and Marquette’s membership in the Big East make this exactly the right time for us to move forward with lacrosse as a varsity sport at Marquette.”

Lacrosse is set to become Marquette’s eighth men’s varsity sport and seventh for women. The Golden Eagles will enter competition as an independent for the spring 2013 season before joining the Big East for the 2014 season.

As the fourth university in the Midwest region to adopt the sport, Marquette has responded to recent growth of the sport’s popularity in the region, particularly in the state of Wisconsin. Membership in the state’s chapter of US Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body, has jumped from 836 to 2,679 strong since 2005.

Who will coach the teams and where they will play remains unknown, but an application for the head coaching job has been posted on Gomarquette.com.

Mike Broeker, deputy athletic director and sports administrator for lacrosse, has also announced that Dave Cottle will serve as consultant to the upstart program. As a men’s head coach, Cottle compiled 22 NCAA tournament appearances and an overall record of 280-115 over 28 years at Loyola University Maryland and the University of Maryland.

“Our road to nationally competitive lacrosse programs begins by accessing Dave’s incredible wealth of lacrosse knowledge and industry relationships,” Broeker said in a press release. “His guidance in helping us identify the right leaders for our new programs is paramount.”

Marquette fans are witnesses to the Big East’s strength as a basketball conference as the Golden Eagles battle top-ranked opponents week in and week out. Lacrosse will provide a very similar atmosphere, as the Big East has quickly emerged as one of the best conferences in the nation — highlighted by 10-time national champion Syracuse and 2010 runner-up Notre Dame.

By bringing in lacrosse, Marquette may have done more than simply add a varsity sport. The Big East will undergo major changes with the upcoming addition of Texas Christian University, known best for its football program, in the fall of 2012. Some speculate the conference may look to drop schools, and by announcing its plans to participate in Big East lacrosse, Marquette may have helped its chances of remaining in the fold.

“The addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse reflects Marquette’s continuing commitment to a broad and successful athletics program — something that has been evident to all of us since the school began competing in the Big East Conference in 2005,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto in a press release. “As a conference, it elevates the number of lacrosse sponsored programs in our league to 10 on the women’s side and eight on the men’s side, underscoring the growth and importance of the sport to our membership.”

It seems only fitting that a Jesuit university such as Marquette would adopt a sport whose play was first recorded by Jesuit missionary Jean de Brebeuf in 1636.

Ideally, lacrosse will attract a new faction of students to Marquette and further bolster its athletic diversity. For a university that takes such pride in its Division I sports tradition, lacrosse will provide new opportunities for Marquette to make its name known on a national scale.

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