Brian Duncan has been coaching lacrosse for over 20 years, which has included various stints in both college and the pros. But his biggest challenge may be ahead of him as he is tasked with taking Flagler College from club to NCAA DII.
Duncan’s journey at Flagler began eight years ago.
“I looked at Flagler College as a place that I thought was a perfect lacrosse school,” Duncan said in an interview with Lacrosse Bucket. “I wrote an email to the AD and he responded that they were interested in lacrosse, but they didn’t know how long it would be.”
After serving as an assistant coach for Florida Tech in 2015 he decided that he was going to put all his energy into making his vision of lacrosse at Flagler College a reality. But that process would have to start at the club level.
“I had a few meetings with the president of Flagler College about helping start the program…And they didn’t really promise me anything,” said Duncan.
Duncan assumed the position of head club coach at Flagler in 2016 and thought that it would be about three years before they would be elevated to the varsity level. And while lacrosse remained at the club level a little bit longer than he anticipated, Duncan said that he just kept grinding away.
The good news finally came at the end of the 2019 season.
“We were in our last game and both the athletic director and president came…the AD came down at halftime and told our boys that NCAA Division II is where we were headed, but it was going to be two more years before that happened.”
On top of the news that Flagler lacrosse would be elevated to the DII level, the school also announced that they would begin the process of constructing a lacrosse facility, which is scheduled to be finished by the fall of 2021.
While Coach Duncan has had to be patient with his vision of varsity lacrosse at Flagler, this isn’t his first rodeo with a new program. He was an assistant at Jacksonville from 2009-2011, where he was part of the Dolphin’s inaugural squad.
He believes that his experience at Jacksonville was instrumental for him as a coach and will help him as he takes Flagler from club to varsity.
“I learned a lot from that situation…I am hoping that I can be ahead of the game with expectations and put some checks in place that will allow us to move into starting a program with minimal hiccups.” Duncan said.
Since the news broke that Flagler would be elevating their lacrosse program from club to DII in 2022, Coach Duncan has been doing a lot to make sure that when the time comes Flagler is fully ready to make that jump. And according to Duncan, the biggest piece he is trying to instill right now is a culture.
“As a club coach I had no real say over these kids…I had to influence them to want to be there,” Duncan said. “I want to now bring a culture where guys want to be there, want to be working hard, and want to be doing the little things that make you a good player and a good citizen.”
Coach Duncan says that he wants these next few years leading up to their 2022 debut to be years where he can build and instill the culture he wants into his players and program.
And a lot of that culture building starts with recruiting. After all, it is the lifeblood of college lacrosse and is a vital part of any program, especially a program that is being built from the ground up. But for a program like Flagler, recruiting can be just as difficult as it is important.
When building a program, you must sell recruits on something they can’t see. There are no past results. All that you have to sell is the school and a vision. And in some cases, location.
“I have started recruiting guys that I know have the same feeling I have have as 2020 guys coming into a club, but knowing that the following year we will be live NCAA…I’m selling to these kids that they get a year to get acclimated to college, get in the weight room, and they get a full year to just learn our verbiage and system.”
In addition to the challenges that already face Flagler as a growing program, they won’t have any shortage of challenges on the field once their inaugural season in 2022 hits as they will be in one of the toughest regions of the DII lacrosse world. While Flagler will just be the third Peach Belt Conference member school to add lacrosse, they are very close to schools in the Sunshine State Conference, which has produced an NCAA semifinalist three out of their six years as a conference and has had one school make the national title game.
Additionally, the South region as a whole is home to some of the best competition in DII lacrosse with programs like five-time national champion Limestone, Belmont Abbey, Lenoir-Rhyne, and other powers calling the South home.
“I’m friends with most of the coaches in the Sunshine State Conference and many of them have already have said they are willing to play us. So that’s great because we can get up to eight games against really good teams right in our own state with a budget that makes sense for our school.” Duncan said.
According to Coach Duncan, he wants Flagler to just be able to compete in year one and year two. But he is hoping that by year three and four of being an NCAA school that they can be able to sniff a playoff berth. He says that he hopes his time as a head coach at the Junior College level, where he won a national title in 2004 with CCBC Essex, can come in handy when it comes to the process of building Flagler into a successful lacrosse program.
The foundation for success at Flagler has been and is still being laid by Coach Duncan each day. But ultimately, there is still plenty of time and work before the Saints take the field as a NCAA DII program in the spring of 2022.