HISTORY OF COLLEGE LACROSSE IN THE SOUTHWEST
Modern lacrosse was introduced to the Lone Star State in 1971. The genesis of the sport's growth in Texas can be traced to a single event: the legendary Johns Hopkins vs. Navy Game played in Houston's Astrodome in April of that year. This exhibition-part of the regular NCAA schedule for the two national powers-was calculated to spark the promotion of the sport in the Southwest. Two former Eastern high school players attending SMU and Texas A&M made contact through that event. Three weeks later, the fledgling Dallas Lacrosse Club challenged the newly formed Texas A&M team to a scrimmage on a section of the polo fields in College Station. That inaugural competition steadily evolved into our current lacrosse community of over fifty teams.
Both new teams met several times over the next year, and by the fall of 1972, the Dallas Club accepted an invitation to play the newly formed Houston Lacrosse Club at the Kinkaid School in Houston.
The Texas Lacrosse League was formed by these three teams in 1974. The Tulane Lacrosse Club from New Orleans, applied for membership as did the San Antonio Lacrosse Club and the University of Texas. In 1975, Baylor, LSU and Texas Tech filled out the league to nine teams and re-dubbed the organization the Southwest Lacrosse Association.
By 1978, the SWLA was sanctioning teams in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. A two-tiered Collegiate and Post-Graduate Club division structure was initiated to promote competition among equals. As the robust economic boom of the 80's took shape, the Southwest offered many jobs and opportunities for transplanted lacrosse players. The Club Division of the SWLA reached thirteen teams while the colleges matched that number. Some college teams would emerge as strong, competitive programs, while others nursed thin rosters and fluctuating interest on campus. Lacrosse, while in its second decade of development in the Southwest, was still being introduced and taught to new players on over 80% of a college's squad. The competitiveness of the collegiate game and the quality of play were developing at a painfully slow rate.
1987 became a pivotal year for college lacrosse throughout Texas. The St. John's School of Houston fielded the first high school team in the state. The following year, Houston's Kinkaid School and Memorial High School started teams. Within two more seasons, there were eight high schools participating in Houston and Austin. By the time the first freshmen from these teams graduated into the ranks of the Texas colleges, the quality of collegiate competition was showing remarkable improvement.
In 1993, the next level of collegiate competition was introduced as Trinity University and the University of Texas played in the first sanctioned USILA game in the Southwest. The United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association is the governing body for all varsity lacrosse competition in the country. The USILA extends a category of membership to non-varsity, collegiate club teams, which agree to voluntarily comply with all NCAA guidelines concerning the eligibility of players and uniform adaptation of the NCAA rules governing the play of the game. The introduction of these comprehensive standards insures a level playing field, and allows all college teams-full varsity programs and sports clubs alike-to engage in sanctioned varsity-level competition.
The USILA opportunity is spreading among geographically insulated spheres of lacrosse in the Western two-thirds of the country. California, Colorado, the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast all have well- defined leagues which are beginning to interact using this varsity-level criteria.
As these previously isolated leagues begin formulating a national playoff structure, the Southwest has the opportunity to become a cornerstone in this new, emerging national game.
With the development of thirty-plus high schools playing lacrosse in Texas, and the reputation of collegiate lacrosse in the Southwest beginning to spread nationwide, the future of the college game is very promising.
-Original piece by Bob Korba, 1995