Parity Is Increasing in College Lacrosse and Its Former Powers Aren’t Happy

Brendan Curry of Syracuse plays John Prendergast of Duke. (Rich Barnes/Getty)
Brendan Curry of Syracuse plays John Prendergast of Duke. (Rich Barnes/Getty)
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Syracuse, a school with a storied lacrosse program that went to a record 22 straight Final Fours from 1983 to 2004, hasn’t won a national title in a decade.

And the Orange aren’t alone in their recent futility, as they are one of a number of historically powerful NCAA lacrosse programs that have fallen on tough times (by their standards) thanks to an increase of parity in the sport at the collegiate level.

From 1978 until 2009, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, North Carolina and Virginia won every NCAA lacrosse title. In the decade since then, they have won just two, as programs like Navy, UMass,  Duke, Loyola, Denver and Yale have all stepped up their games.

This year’s top team, Penn State, could become the fifth first-time champion of this decade if  the Nittany Lions are able to win the NCAA tournament, which begins Wednesday.

Penn State has never won a tournament game before, and they play in a lacrosse conference, the Big Ten, that didn’t exist five years ago.

With 56 Division I teams in 2008, the men’s game has grown rapidly and boasts 72 D1 squads today.

“When I played, the best schools just reloaded,” four-time Syracuse All-American Casey Powell told The New York Times. “Now there’s so many more players, where Johns Hopkins and Syracuse are still getting their bunch, but other schools can too. Syracuse’s exposure revolutionized the game and created a new era of lacrosse.”

Syracuse and Johns Hopkins did make this year’s tourney. Perennial contender North Carolina did not.

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