The sport of lacrosse is making its way to Iowa as the University of Dubuque and Loras College announced they will begin women’s programs in 2013 and 2014 respectively, with Dubuque also adding men’s lacrosse as an official sport in 2014.
Wartburg athletic director Rick Willis said he wasn’t surprised to see schools like Dubuque and Loras add lacrosse.
“We’ve been tracking the growth of lacrosse and watching its evolution as it moves more toward the Midwest. I wasn’t overly surprising to see someone try that,” Willis said.
Willis said adding a sport is not something that is discussed regularly in the athletic department but there are many different ways that a discussion could get started. One of those ways being student interest.
Wartburg student and San Diego, Calif. native Peter Hoffman attempted to start an unofficial lacrosse club last year but there was little interest.
“There were some kids that said they wanted to play but they’d already sold their gear from high school and just didn’t want to pay for it and have that expense,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said he talked to Willis last spring and is interested in getting the club started again after hearing there is more interest in the sport in this year’s freshman class.
Hoffman said that even though he is from California and learned the sport there, he’s excited to see it growing across the country and now reaching Iowa.
“Now that Dubuque has a program, that puts the pressure on Wartburg a little bit more because you want to be a diverse community and a diverse college and you want to have what other schools are offering,” Hoffman said.
“I’d definitely like to put the pressure on [the athletic department] and get a real NCAA sanctioned team.”
Dubuque athletic director Dan Runkle said the decision to add lacrosse was based on attracting students to the school.
“Most private schools are enrollment driven,” Runkle said. “And so if you can find something that you think would be a niche to help bring students in, in the long run, you’re making money because of the cost to go to a private institution.”
Just down the road in Cedar Falls, the University of Northern Iowa cut $500,000 out of its athletic budget last spring, yet in Dubuque, it’s the opposite.
Willis said it’s a completely different situation at a Division III private school than at a Division I public school.
He said the larger schools, such as UNI, are cutting sports in order to reduce expenses while smaller schools are looking to add sports to increase revenue.
“Hopefully what it tells perspective student athletes is that we’re serious about trying to provide opportunities for our students to participate in things that they’re interested in,” Willis said.
Hoffman said he thinks lacrosse could be an official sport at Wartburg in the next four to five years.
“Really all it takes is the initial team to get started and then just keep the interest up,” Hoffman said.