Former Morgan State men's lacrosse players applauded university President David Wilson's stated wish to explore the possibility of the school returning the program, but this time to Division I status.
"I think it would be a great addition to Morgan State," said Lloyd Carter, a former attackman for the Bears and the head coach of the only Division I lacrosse team from a historically black college or university at Hampton. "I played there on the last team that they had. It was a great opportunity to play at Morgan, and it'd be a great opportunity to a lot more student-athletes."
Said former Morgan State midfielder and current City boys lacrosse coach Anthony Ryan: "It would definitely be a good thing. We have lacrosse at practically every high school in Baltimore City, and yet we don't have a college lacrosse team at an HBCU that is a varsity team. There's a couple that do have club ball, but that's a far cry from actually having a varsity sport."
Carter and Ryan spoke in response to Wilson's statement that adding men's and women's lacrosse as varsity sports would be part of the scope of the institution's incoming athletic director, who is expected to be appointed by Sept. 1. The search to replace Floyd Kerr, who retired July 1, is ongoing.
"Since I've arrived at Morgan more than six years ago, I have been consistently made aware of Morgan's unique role and experience in lacrosse dating back decades, and given the alums that came to that program and the number of students who had experienced playing lacrosse at Morgan during that era, they have been very encouraging to me to consider what the possibility would be for Morgan to move up to Division I lacrosse," Wilson said. "So we have been discussing this at Morgan for the last five years, and I feel that now the opportunity is quite judicious for us to thoughtfully look at this and then next year make a decision as whether we indeed go in this direction."
From 1970 to 1981, Morgan State was the only men's lacrosse program from an HBCU. Despite playing in Division II, the Bears played several Division I opponents and defeated Notre Dame, Villanova, Michigan State and Georgetown in a five-day span in 1981 before the team was disbanded because of financial concerns.
The cost of funding a Division I program and sensitivity to violating Title IX concerns may be the thorniest issues, Wilson acknowledged.
"If we could figure out a way in which those two areas could be addressed, certainly that would be a major hurdle that we would have jumped over at Morgan," he said, noting that the athletic department has struggled to generate sufficient amounts of revenue.
A Bears varsity team would add a second Division I program from an HBCU, and Carter pointed to Hampton's first foray this past spring as a significant reason for renewed interest at Morgan State.
"I think the program being started at Hampton probably gave them the idea that it's a feasible thing and can be done with the right people in leadership and administrative positions and that it can come to fruition," he said. "So I'm sure that's probably going to motivate them."
There are programs like Blax Lax and Charm City Lacrosse that seek to develop the sport's roots in Baltimore, but Ryan said there is a need for a school like Morgan State.
"Out here in Baltimore City, they're not coming to Baltimore City," he said. "Certainly the D-1 programs aren't. The other programs, if they find out a little bit about us, we may see a few D-2 or D-3 coaches once in a while, but it's not like they're sitting in the stands waiting on us. That is exactly the same thing that was going on when we were in school as well. They weren't knocking our doors down trying to get us into their programs."
Wilson, who first expressed his desire for a varsity program to Lacrosse Magazine earlier this week, said lacrosse alumni and supporters have not been shy about lobbying him to revive the program.
"I have to say to you based on the feedback we've gotten from alums over the years, there is a great deal of excitement at even taking a look at this possibility," he said. "So what I'm saying is I'm really committed to look at this in a very strategic way and the timing is right to do this, and we hope to have a sense of where we want to go in this area within a year."