While lacrosse is the oldest sport played in the state of Michigan and the newest of sports at the University, the country at large still does not completely absorb the game.
According to Michigan History Magazine, lacrosse was the first sport played in the boundaries of what is now the state of Michigan. The first match could have been played as early as the 1630s, nearly two centuries before Michigan became a state.
“The sport of lacrosse was started by the Native Americans,” Michigan head coach John Paul said. “It was pretty popular in the northeast region and throughout the past 30 years the sports popularity status has continued to grow rapidly.”
Despite the sport’s similarities to other major sports, like hockey and soccer, lacrosse is still not set in the same glare of publicity as the major sports in the world.
Dating back to the 17th century, the French Jesuits and English explorers in Huron County began the sport of lacrosse.
Although the sport has major history in the country and Great Lakes area, Michigan has not yet presented its own lacrosse team with varsity status.
Understanding the position of Michigan’s athletic department, Paul declared that the lacrosse team is ecstatic for their position at this moment.
“Working with the athletic department for many years I realize that it isn’t possible to add another varsity sport to the University,” Paul said. “We are doing our best job as a team and we feel that we are in a good position when the university decides to add another varsity team.”
In the fall of 2000, Athletic Director Bill Martin announced that two Michigan club teams, men’s lacrosse and men’s crew, would become the first club programs to receive “varsity club program” status. This means that lacrosse is receiving some of the same benefits that a varsity team would. But the team still does not have the authority to offer scholarships or provide influence with the admissions process.
Is it hard to recruit players because Michigan’s lacrosse team is not a varsity program?
“It is and it isn’t,” Paul responded. “It’s hard to recruit, but because it’s in Michigan a lot of players turn down scholarships to come and play here.”
Entering his sixth season as coach of Michigan lacrosse, Paul has accumulated an astonishing record of 89-20. With that winning percentage of .817, his teams have produced a remarkable record of 45-1 in the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association.
In the years of Paul’s reign as head coach, Michigan has won four straight CCLA championships and emerged in the national quarterfinals for the past four years as well.
Beginning the season on Feb. 15 in Ann Arbor, senior captains Sooman Kim and Chip Thomas will take the field for their last season. Kim and Thomas were both All-Americans last season and are very important to the success of the team.
“We have a good team despite our injuries in the fall,” said Paul. “Right now we are ranked number 5 in the nation, and we’ll stay in the mix throughout the season.”