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It's All About the Benjamins: Why the University of Georgia Can Succeed as a Lacrosse School

Photo Credit - Dave Nuckolls

Happy Memorial Day weekend! As you may know, Division I men’s lacrosse is about to crown a new NCAA champion, and our own Lax Dawgs finished in the top 20 in the MCLA following their SELC championship season. That would seem to make this an opportune time for me to renew my efforts to state the case for varsity lacrosse at the University of Georgia.

First, though, a brief recap of what has transpired since last I posted in this space would seem to be in order. The Red and Black men’s tennis team made the national semifinals, while the ladies made the quarterfinals. The women’s equestrian team finished second in the nation for the third straight season, and the Gym Dogs made it back to the Super Six. The men’s golf team is about to begin competition for an NCAA title, whereas the women’s swimming team has already won a national championship. In short, if it’s a sport about which citizens are serious in affluent Peach State suburbs, particularly in metropolitan Atlanta, the University of Georgia is good at it.

This brings us to lacrosse.

Of the 32 high schools whose boys’ lacrosse teams made this year’s Class 5A and Class 6A playoffs, 31 of them hailed from one of six Georgia counties: Cobb, Columbia, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton, and Gwinnett. According to 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, those six counties all are among the ten wealthiest counties in the Empire State of the South, with each having a per capita income above $27,300 annually. If, as chuckdawg often has observed, the University of Georgia excels at "country club sports," lacrosse ought to be an endeavor at which the Bulldogs may do well merely by drawing from the areas of the state in which "the Creator’s game" is on the upswing.

Incidentally, according to this report (.pdf) from the University System of Georgia, Cobb, Columbia, DeKalb, Fayette, Fulton, and Gwinnett Counties together accounted for 54.9 per cent of the in-state first-time freshmen who enrolled at the University of Georgia in the fall of 2011 (the most recent autumn for which I was able to find complete data).

That’s right. The year before last, nearly 55 out of every 100 incoming Peach State frosh entering the University of Georgia hailed from one of the six counties that together accounted for nearly 97 per cent of this year’s high school lacrosse playoff field. Since they’ve come, we can build it.

This, of course, is not news to the fine folks involved in the highly successful Bulldog club lacrosse program, who know where to look for future players, and who showed the good sense to schedule a regular-season conference game at Centennial High School, home of the 2013 GHSA Class 6A state champions. It should not be news to the powers that be in Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, but, given how long it took for David Perno to be fired, I’m not going to assume anything is so obvious that it absolutely goes without saying, so here it is:

Georgia is good at sports that are played at a high level in the high-income areas from which the student body in Athens increasingly is drawn. Lacrosse is no exception to this rule. Therefore, the Bulldogs should field varsity lacrosse teams in the same manner, for the same reasons, and with the same expectations as our equestrian, golf, gymnastics, tennis, and swimming and diving teams.

Go ‘Dawgs!

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