The UGA lacrosse club program has had recent success not only on the field, but also by garnering a following on campus in general thanks to its notable social media presence. This presence has also brought the team national recognition.
The single factor that is lacking with the Bulldogs is that it competes at a club level, not the varsity level.
The club team is a member of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, which includes 200 club teams from many different universities across the country.
On the field in 2016, the team posted a 15-2 record, making it to the second round of the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference Tournament. This is an improvement from 12-3 in 2015 and their 7-7 records in 2014.
Despite the lacrosse team's popularity, the team remains a club team and does not compete at the varsity level.
What makes it difficult for lacrosse to take that next step is the presence of a strong football program here at UGA.
The team’s president, senior Jonathan Newar, discussed a few of the reasons as to why to the team has not yet made the switch to competing at the varsity level.
“A lot of [NCAA] schools that bring on lacrosse programs don’t have the big athletic department brand like we do here at UGA” Newar said. “There isn’t an incentive to bring on lacrosse as a division one sport because there is already a huge presence with the culture of football here on campus.”
Predominantly, lacrosse is a major sport in the northeast area of the United States. While its popularity has grown to the southern states, it remains secondary to sports such as football.
“It’d be nice to see schools in SEC, specifically Georgia, catch up with these schools in the North with lacrosse culture,” Newar said.
A majority of the process that it takes for a club sports team to transition to the varsity level has to do with financial assets. Logistically, a single program cannot make the leap unless others in their conference do as well.
Currently, there are no SEC schools that have varsity lacrosse programs. In order for the SEC to have competition in lacrosse, “six programs would likely have to simultaneously, agree to start programs in order for the investment to be worthwhile through the opportunity that one conference team makes it to the championship tournament,” Newar said.
While the financial aspect may not be in place right now, many of UGA’s lacrosse team’s players have done their job in getting the team recognized on campus.
Jake Sciotto, a sixth-year student and member of the UGA’s lacrosse team, works with junior Grant DeSelm running the team’s twitter account. The idea of one day making the next step to competing at the varsity level is something the two have thought about, but there are too many limiting factors standing in the way.
“Although it would be great, there are just too many contributing factors to being elevated to varsity status to have the idea on our list of priorities,” Sciotto said. “The thought, however, is out there. Grant and I have done a lot of work getting eyes on our program thanks to the success of twitter, which was right about when Kirby Smart started handing out lacrosse sticks to football players for good defensive plays during the spring game.”
Many of UGA lacrosse’s players are satisfied with their distinction as a club team. The competition does not drop off from the varsity level. The difference lies in the lack of resources compared to those of a varsity team.
“For some, the biggest lack of resources is guidance. People forget that these club organizations are being run by 20-something-year-olds. Our biggest disadvantages, a lack of resources, is also our biggest advantage” Sciotto said. “Some guys are forced to grow up quickly, whether it be by expectations to perform on the field or being elected to a leadership position.”
Garnering interest for players to join the team is crucial for a club sport to continue in operation. UGA lacrosse has enjoyed success in its tenure due to the amount of players that are interested in trying out each year.
“Our tryout numbers have increased every year since I’ve been here” Newar said. “This year, we have about 30 guys trying out.”
While UGA lacrosse is not in a position to make a jump to the varsity level, its success on the field, as well as popularity on campus, has made them a staple of campus sports life.