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Does The Fall Of The Ivies Signal The Rise Of Lacrosse?

Here's something that D1scourse's Patrick Stevens noticed yesterday...

Four Ivy League lax coaches have left for other jobs in the last 13 months (Tierney, Voelker, Tillman and Tambroni). VERY interesting.

This was after announcement that Jeff Tambroni was leaving his successful post at Cornell to take the job at Penn State where the Nittany Lions are coming off a 2-11 season. This is on the heels of John Tillman leaving Harvard for Maryland and a year removed from Brian Voelker leaving Penn to Drexel and Bill Tierney's game-changing move from Princeton to Denver.

The move to Maryland aside, the other three were extremely notable for their lateral or backwards movement.  Leaving Cornell, which has gone to three of the last four Final Fours to a team that finished 2-11 at the bottom of the CAA sounds like lunacy.  Of course, when you factor in that it's Penn State University and they probably just threw a goalie's net-worth of cash Tambroni's way, it begins to make more sense.

And that got me thinking...

In college football or basketball, would you ever see a head coach willfully jump from one of the top programs in the nation to the one of the worst?  The only time that ever happens is when a coach is disgraced or is mounting some kind of comeback.  So why are we seeing it in lacrosse?  In a matter of a year, the two coaches of the best Ivy League programs in the nation have both left for mediocre programs with little or no history.

And maybe that's a good thing for the sport.

The point is that college lacrosse ultimately wants to grow the way basketball and football did, right?  Perhaps not to that kind of national level but at the very least expand its footprint and the amount of quality programs that play the sport.  Of the many things that basketball and football had in common along their climbs to national prominence, there's one that comes to mind.  The fading power of the Ivy League to make way for other programs.

The early days of college basketball championships are peppered with Ivy League winners.  Yale ('01,'03), Columbia ('0, '05, '10), Dartmouth ('07) and Princeton ('25) all claimed titles.  And then, around the time the sport starting growing up and organizing, they faded into the background.

With college football, its even more obvious.  Between 1869 and 1900, every single national champion ever crowned was from the Ivy League.  The Ivies continued to basically own the national title until the early 20's when Notre Dame, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Illinois and others came into their own.  After 1925, an Ivy League team would never again top the sport as it grew exponentially. 

It's not that I'm saying Princeton and Cornell need to die or be relegated in order for the sport to grow.  Rather, I think it's just a sign of the times for any American college sport when it begins to outgrow its roots.  The schools that afford to overpay quality coaches, build better facilities and attract better athletes simply begin to outpace the ones that can't do all of those things.  Namely, regional Ivy League schools.

Obviously, this is overstating the current situation.  Princeton and Cornell are still both top programs.  The sport is still full of small, regional schools that compete and do well.  But what if Tambroni turns Penn State into a power?  And Tierney continues to build Denver up?  And more high-profile universities hire away good coaches from the little guys.  And conferences expand, cultivate and grow.  And the sports continues moving West away from its Northeastern roots.

Well...I guess we'll see...