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Athletic department has no love for lacrosse

Club team locked in constant struggle for funding, facilities and recognition

News Reporter

Published: Thursday, February 24, 2011

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 22:11

The University of Memphis lacrosse team, which opened its 2011 campaign this month, is currently facing an uphill battle for resources and funding from The University.

The University does not support club sports as much as intramural sports, lacrosse coach and program founder Ryan Pavlicek said.

"Club sports at The U of M are actually below intramurals on the importance totem pole that (Campus Recreation and Intramural Services) holds," he said.

Lacrosse is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport at The U of M and therefore is not eligible to receive funding from the athletic department. Instead, the program must rely on funding from CRIS.

Bob Winn, associate athletic director for external affairs, said the athletic department does not provide funding for lacrosse because its budget does not allow it.

"(The athletic department) has 19 sports that compete for NCAA championships," Winn said. "That's what our budget allows. We don't sponsor or help the racquetball team or any of those teams."

Club sports do receive funding from The University, but not enough to cover all the program's necessities, Pavlicek said.

"We have approximately 3 percent of our annual budget provided for by The University, and as much as it's appreciated, it just doesn't go very far," he said. "It doesn't meet the needs of the program where things like national dues, league dues and secondary insurance are concerned. We're not talking about fluffy things like T-shirts, hoodies, jackets and every other little tertiary thing — we're talking about needs."

CRIS officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

One of the bigger hindrances for the lacrosse team is a lack of adequate facilities for practices and games.

Echles Field, located off Spottswood Avenue south of the main campus, is the only intramural field on campus with lights. The lacrosse team must compete with the other club and intramural sports for practice time.

When another team needs to use the field, however, lacrosse and the other club sports have to play and practice at unlit Memorial Field, on campus behind the Elma Neal Roane Fieldhouse.

But with practices held at night, it is often too dark for the club to practice there.

"We've had some issues scheduling practice times," said Ben Jenkins, senior math and physics major and captain of the lacrosse team. "We go from 8 to 10 at night because our guys have to work or coach other schools' lacrosse teams. Sometimes it gets frustrating. Last season, we were planning to practice, and they'd be like, ‘Sorry, there's nothing we can do.' We just make do with what we have. Sometimes we just play basketball in a gym or something, but that doesn't help much with lacrosse."

Pavlicek said other programs have precedence over club sports when it comes to field access.

"We've been denied Echles Field because of intramural kickball or a one-on-one varsity soccer practice," he said. "For every practice that we're not allowed to be on the field, that's that much less chemistry my team is going to have. Right now, this University has one and only one lit field on campus. What's just as bad is they have just one and only one additional field outside of that, and it's not lit."

The program is also not authorized to represent The University in games.

"Intramural (sports) will rarely, if ever, get off campus and support The University, but The University will tell us we do not represent the school," Pavlicek said.

Winn said the main problem the athletic department has with club sports officially representing The U of M is the use of the leaping tiger logo.

"The logo is representative of the NCAA-sanctioned sports at The University," Winn said. "We have to avoid confusion when other entities use those logos to represent what they're doing. We've had parents of swimmers at schools wanting us to come recruit their kid for our swim team, but we don't have a swim team. Allowing clubs and intramurals to use our logo creates a lot of confusion."

Pavlicek said it is frustrating that The University won't allow the lacrosse team to represent The U of M in an official capacity.

"Everytime the students go off campus, whether it's in a lacrosse jersey or a T-shirt, they represent the school," he said. "We are going out to large cities, large universities, and whether or not The University will accept the fact that we represent them on paper, the real tangible fact is that to our opponents, and to our league, we do. And we do a very good job of it."

The team, which plays in the Great Rivers conference in the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association, is 1-2 after a 10-4 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks on Sunday, Feb. 20. The team fell to the Iowa Hawkeyes 21-7 the day before and to the Kansas Jayhawks, 16-7, Feb. 12.

They will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday at Echles Field at noon.

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