Boosters, Bagmen, and Money: The Future of College Lacrosse Recruiting

Photo Credit:

The world of college athletics is one that is ever changing as it seems there is always a new scandal or situation between a school and the NCAA. This kind of stuff is always in the news and usually concerns basketball or football programs. Those two sports are the biggest revenue generating sports and therefore those sports get the most coverage. Sometimes those cases involve a player or players getting paid to play. Those payments are usually made to the player from a booster, and the head coach may or may not know about it. YES it is entirely possible this is happening at your favorite school.

If that stuff happens in college football and college basketball who's to say that it couldn't ever happen in college lacrosse. The first and most important thing to note here is that college lacrosse is a non-revenue generating sport at most schools. The only two schools where lacrosse may actually generate revenue is Syracuse and Hopkins. There could be a few other schools, but those two schools make the most money from lacrosse. That is the main reason as to why you don't see that kind of stuff in lacrosse, yet. Also, the demographic of lacrosse is smaller and much different than football and basketball at the moment.

College lacrosse just adopted new recruiting legislation last year that limits contact between a recruit and coach until September first of their junior year. That legislation comes after many years of early recruiting plaguing the sport. Personally, I found it ridiculous that some of the top programs had each recruiting class finished before those kids finished their freshman year of high school. That is just crazy to think that we had kids committing to colleges as seventh, eight, and ninth graders. The growth of the game and the boom of club lacrosse all contributed to that system of recruiting that has been stopped for now.

College lacrosse coaches can not contact potential recruits until September first of their junior year of high school. That gives a college coach and his staff only two years to recruit the player. Coaches can watch the player at a camp, tournament, or prospect day but can't have any contact with them. That is a big change from the old system, a change that I feel all college coaches have embraced heavily. Many college coaches were very happy with the change in recruiting legislation. They even changed more of it to clear up any grey areas where coaches could potentially talk to a recruit through one of their coaches.

With these new rules how can a recruiting system that involves money, boosters, and maybe some shady characters infiltrate college lacrosse when we have these new rules in place? It's actually quite simple, if you ask me.

Over the summer many players that have aspirations of playing college lacrosse play with a club team and they go to many events and tournaments where they can be seen by college coaches. Usually at these tournaments there are a lot of teams, players, parents, college coaches, and other people there. In this environment it would be very easy for a booster or "representative" of a college program to meet players and even their family. Now this person would be known as the "bagman" to some.
It would be those kinds of people that have an in with the program to go up to the player and his family and get to know them and develop a relationship. Since they aren't a coach they really don't have any limitations on what they can and can't do. That makes it very easy to get to know the family and develop a level of trust. This trust would allow them unique access to that specific player thus being able to pay him in return for signing with their school.

Now all this is under the table and the head coach may or may not know that this kind of stuff is going on. Honestly, with the kind of coaches we have in college lacrosse right now I would expect the majority of them to be able to suspect this kind of stuff. But later on as lacrosse gets bigger and we see more big time schools like Utah add lacrosse this kind of stuff could happen in our sport.
The next portion of this is the morality part. Is this kind of thing right or is it wrong? I'm not going to tell you if it's one or the other so that's for you to decide. Just be aware that there are multiple sides to this argument.

The simplest argument against paying college athletes in general is that they are so called student-athletes and they are they get that money through their education. In lacrosse there haven't been many full rides give out so it's a little different but still the same argument can be made because scholarships do cover a portion of their education.

The argument that I usually stand for is the one for paying the players. This argument is that these kids chose that school to play lacrosse or any other sport at that school and they wouldn't be there without that sport. This is true in all sports as many kids are recruited to play lacrosse at that school. To quote former Ohio State QB Cardale Jones, "We ain't here to play school." Personally, I feel that is very true and that players in all sports should be paid somewhat for that fact.

Since the NCAA prohibits paying players the only way they can get real money is under the table through boosters, insane fans, or agents. This is in fact a reality in college football and basketball as we know and I believe that it one day will be a fact in college lacrosse as well. As I stated earlier as this game grows further and wider each year more top colleges will start to add lacrosse and that will just be the tip of the iceberg for this kind of system.

This will be a while before we see this in college lacrosse recruiting but I can already see it. The year is 2035 and Alabama just got busted for paying guys to come to there school to play college lacrosse and win a national championship. Those will most likely be the headlines of the future if the rules currently in place stick for that long.

Again, you all know where I stand on this issue in lacrosse and all college sports. In lacrosse it's just a thought and most likely won't take place for at least 15-20 years which is a pretty long time. All we can do now is just sit back and watch this game that we love change, evolve, get better and reach new audiences each and every year.