SBJ/June 4 - 10, 2001/No Topic Name

Men’s lacrosse at Syracuse a big winner, but not a moneymaker

As sure as nearly 10 feet of snow (or more) will fall on Syracuse, N.Y., each winter, one rite of spring will follow.

That is a berth by the Syracuse University men's lacrosse team in the NCAA Final Four.

It's been that way for 19 years running, 2001 included.

Two components have helped make Syracuse the lacrosse power it is. One is the popularity of the sport in central New York state. The second is the Carrier Dome, aka, the "House of Pain," where SU wins better than 90 percent of its home games and 12 times has gone undefeated.

"Since the NCAA established the Final Four tournament structure, we have been in every one," said Jake Crouthamel, the director of athletics at Syracuse. "That is astounding."

What's not so astounding, though, is the fact that despite its success, men's lacrosse at SU is not a moneymaker.

Lacrosse rosters run deep, with 40 or more players. The NCAA scholarship limit, however, is just 12 for this non-revenue sport. SU gives out just a fraction below the 12 scholarships allowed.

"Title IX is discouraging the creation of men's teams in any sport because of the financial commitments and the numbers commitments that we're responsible for in Title IX," Crouthamel said. "There aren't collegiate men's lacrosse teams popping up across the country like there are women's teams."

SU generates close to $200,000 in lacrosse ticket revenue and twice this year had crowds in excess of 10,500, with an average of nearly 7,000 per game. Associate director of athletics Michael Veley said SU has just over a half dozen corporate sponsors, split nationally and locally. He said sponsorships account for about $45,000 in added revenue, but the marketing focus is on all sports.

"The biggest mistake sports marketers make is not knowing who their fan base is, what their consumer buying habits are," Veley said. "When people tell me, 'I'm a Syracuse fan!' the first question I ask is, what sport? There is a big difference between our football crowd and our basketball fans, and the makeup of our lacrosse crowd is very specialized."

As is, Crouthamel quickly noted, ticket revenue covers little more than half of the allotted scholarships.

"We're not even close to profit or breaking even," he said. "I suspect on a gross revenue basis there's no one that matches us."

On the field, it's pretty much the same story.

Rick Maloney writes for Business First of Buffalo.

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