(Photo Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics)
Lacrosse is unique in that multiple aspects of other team sports are all featured in the game. The physicality of football, the skill of hockey, and the IQ of basketball can be seen in lacrosse. Heck, basketball was based on lacrosse.
And while these different aspects of other sports can be seen in the game, the regular-season scheduling structure is also a mix, at least at the college level. Some teams may only play one game a week like football, but teams could also play two or three games per week like basketball or hockey. However, the postseason structure has always resembled that of basketball and hockey, as college lacrosse champions have been crowned via postseason tournament for pretty much the sports’ entire existence as the college level. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if college lacrosse had developed with a bowl game structure like college football?
First off, there would be much more debate and many more teams claiming “fake” national titles in the past. But that wouldn’t matter that. Who cares if three teams claim the 1967 national title? It’s a great claim, but o current player or recruit was alive for that.
Where the debate would now in the modern era would be surrounding the national championship each year, especially if a college lacrosse bowl system featured a four-team playoff, like football. Imagine how heated that debate could get. What if a team lost their conference title game and still got in. Or worse, didn’t play in their conference championship game but only had one loss, and still got in. Whew! #LacrosseTwitter would be hot.
In addition, what would happen to smaller teams like Loyola or Towson in terms of the championship conversation? Would they get shunned from the playoff for being a smaller school? It would be a pretty sticky mess, for sure.
Now, where things would get fun would be in the other bowl games that didn’t make up the playoff. Now there couldn’t be too many, but if there would be just the right amount if would be pretty fun.
Imagine the rare and fun matchups that such a bowl system could present. Could we have gotten a Cornell vs High Point matchup in 2019? Would we have been able to see Rutgers in a postseason game each of those years they were, arguably, snubbed for the NCAA Tournament? Could we have seen the Princeton-Syracuse series brought back in a bowl game? There really could be some fantastic matchups that a bowl system could present that we never get to see.
The biggest question presented by this “What if College Lacrosse Had Bowl Games?” theory is where would these games be played? It is hard to imagine NFL stadiums being used for anything outside of a playoff or championship game and teams likely wouldn’t be willing to log an insane amount of miles for anything else either, but that wouldn’t be bad at all. Some of these college stadiums are perfect atmospheres for college games. Homewood, Klöckner, the Dome, and other historic venues would certainly be used as venues for bowl games, and likely some bigger ones. But the atmosphere that could be seen at a place like UAlbany’s Tom and Mary Casey Stadium, Marist’s Tenney Stadium, or other mid-major venues for a bowl game could be electric. But the teams would likely have to be relatively close to the location of the game for that to work.
Yes, there could be scheduling conflicts with graduations if a college lacrosse bowl system used college stadiums. But who isn’t to say that if college lacrosse had developed in a bowl system that we wouldn’t be playing well into June? Imagine having nine or ten bowl games in late May leading up to a four-team playoff that took place in mid-June. That would be something, wouldn’t it?
Additionally, because of how bowl games would have to be scheduled the game could become even more regionalized, which might not have as much of an impact on the game due to the low number of teams at the DI level and the fact that most teams are on the east coast. But it would impact teams in the South, Midwest, and West. It wouldn’t make much sense for a bowl game to pit Utah and Boston U. against each other, but a bowl game between Delaware and Army would make more sense.
A bowl system in college lacrosse doesn’t make a ton of sense due to many different aspects, but it is fun to think about how different things could be if the sort developed more like football at the college level.