Jul 09, 2020

Addition of lacrosse to even out the scale

The San Joaquin Valley isn’t exactly a hotbed for the sport of lacrosse.

After all, there are no high school lacrosse programs from Bakersfield to Stockton.

There are also no club teams currently serving the area.

With almost no fan base and no tradition of lacrosse to draw on, some people find it a an odd choice to bring the sport to the Valley.

But university officials say lacrosse makes sense for a variety of different reasons.

“Our scholarship distribution was not good,” said Betsy Mosher, senior associate athletic director. “We needed to add the team to help add more scholarships. We have more male scholarships than female scholarships.”

Title IX rules require that both male and female student-athletes must receive athletic scholarship dollars that are proportional to their participation.

There must be an equal treatment of female and male student-athletes.

The move to lacrosse will add 12 more scholarships to the female side of the equation.

“We needed a spring sport since we are redoing the soccer stadium here and felt that the sport needed the same venue,” Mosher said.

In California, there are 113 high schools that have a lacrosse program and most schools in the Bay Area have club teams.

Mosher did receive one e-mail from Fresno Unified School District, which stated that there will be a club lacrosse team for seventh and eighth grade students.

They will begin playing at the same time as the Fresno State women’s team takes the field.

One person excited about the new team coming on campus is Alyssa Chambers, Athletics Media Relations assistant and a former lacrosse player.

“I think it’s a great sport,” Chambers said. “It’s not that big of a sport here in California yet, as far as colleges go, but I think it will be a great addition here in Fresno.”

Chambers played on a club lacrosse team at Eastern Washington University before moving to Fresno.

“I think a lot of people will be curious to see what the sport is about, how it’s played and the athleticism of these girls,” Chambers said. “I think it will draw the same crowd as soccer games. I think it will be a great way to bring the community together.”

One person who did express concern towards the new lacrosse team was Diane Mulutinovich.

Muluntinovich, a former senior administrative associate athletic Director and University Student Union director at Fresno State, served on the gender-equity monitoring committee from 1994-2006.

“I think it’s an interesting move,” Mulutinovich said. “They should’ve added women’s water polo instead of lacrosse. That could help bring in a new swimming pool.”

Mulutinovich had a $3.5 million settlement reached between her and Fresno State in October 2007.

She sued Fresno State, claiming she was removed from the athletic department because she fought for equal treatment for female athletes.

“There is more interest in water polo here in Fresno and more high schools have water polo,” Mulutinovich said. “They wanted an excuse to move soccer out of the football stadium.”

Lacrosse will practice west of the football stadium and compete in the stadium.

There is a planned soccer and lacrosse venue just east of the stadium.

“I think that’s stupid,” Mulutinovich said. “Why build another stadium and take up parking space? They could have used the $1.5 million-$2 million they have to build a new swimming pool.

“They can still use the football stadium. They use it for soccer.”

One person who did explain why there wasn’t a water polo team chosen was Brian Tsukimura, a biology professor at Fresno State and the club water polo team advisor.

“The pool has a huge three foot section depth and there’s no room for teams to compete in our pool,” said Tsukimura of the current pool located in the South Gym.

Tsukimura added that Fresno State had a men’s team in the early 1990s.

He believes that the campus picked the sports with the highest scholarships.

“I don’t think [lacrosse] will fail, but water polo would have been more interesting,” Mulutinovich said. “The San Joaquin Valley has more aquatic sports than lacrosse teams.”

No lacrosse coaching candidate has been named yet.

The coaching position has been posted since making the decision to bring in the new sport.

“The new person will have to recruit and do some scheduling, even though we’ve had people contact us about scheduling already,” Mosher said. “We already sent a letter to high schools in California that service lacrosse in regards to us starting a new team.

“This is because we obviously service California and we are trying to convince them to come and play for us.”

Chambers said the best players to switch over to lacrosse are soccer players.

“We might have some former soccer players who would want to try out for the team,” Chambers said. “We may have some girls who would want to walk on with the team.”

The women’s lacrosse team will be likely playing in the Mountain Pacific Lacrosse League, which features UC Davis, Stanford, University of Denver and St. Mary’s.

The games will more than likely be played during the day with some night games.

The season might be started by late winter of 2009.

“The normal pace will be to allow the head coach to have one year to get ready,” Mosher said. “Our anticipation is that they will be competitive in about four to five years in their league. We are asking our coaches to build, to do it the right way, and give them a solid base to be competitive.

“I’m totally excited to bring in sports that will help stabilize our program and can be a good fit to our community.”

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