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It’s official: Lacrosse is the 11th sport sanctioned by UHSAA for both boys and girls

SHARE It’s official: Lacrosse is the 11th sport sanctioned by UHSAA for both boys and girls
It will help grow the game, and it will give more kids the opportunity to play the sport we love. – Craig Morris

MIDVALE — Craig Morris is no gymnast, but the athletic director for Waterford and long-time lacrosse advocate said he had to restrain himself from “doing a cartwheel” after the Utah High School Activities Association voted to sanction lacrosse in a Thursday meeting.

“It was pretty exciting,” he said after the UHSAA’s Board of Trustees voted to approve both boys and girls lacrosse in the 2019-2020 school year. “We were just there to answer questions. We presented way back in October or November, and it’s just making its way through the process since then. After the vote, we walked out of the room and said, ‘Did this really happen?’ We’re thrilled.”

Lacrosse becomes the 11th sport sanctioned by the UHSAA, and there are currently 3,000 to 4,000 students in high school club programs in Utah. Advocates of the sport have been seeking a UHSAA sanction for nearly a decade, which they say would not only benefit those teens already playing in nearly 41 club programs but also introduce the sport to students who currently have no other means for athletics except through the high school.

“We just think this will help recognize the kids who are currently participating,” Morris said. “It will help grow the game, and it will give more kids the opportunity to play the sport we love.”

The UHSAA's executive committee will work out the details about when the prep lacrosse season will be. Both boys and girls currently compete in the spring in local club programs. Morris said sanctioning has helped the game flourish across the country at all levels, and it will do the same in Utah.

“From Colorado to California and Ohio and a lot of places outside the East Coast hotbed,” he said. “It’s brought the game to places we hoped it would and places never imagined. It gives kids another opportunity to be involved in a sport…and the chance to experience all of the benefits we know come from participating in extracurricular activities.”

Canyons School Board member Amber Shill was among the most vocal trustees in favor of sanctioning the sport.

“I think it’s really exciting,” she said. “Boys and girls will have another opportunity to participate and excel in another sport.”

She said the two main issues were facilities and cost.

“Smaller schools were worried about having enough students to compete,” she said. “We decided that no school has to participate. It will be a school decision.”

If 50 percent of the schools in a classification participate, there will be fully functioning regions and playoffs. If not, the schools will have to play in the league closest to its size.

“It’s not for two years," she said, "so schools will have time to plan."

Brae Burbidge, who is in his final season coaching at UVU and the father of three young lacrosse players, said he was thrilled with the decision.

“It’s been so long,” he said. “I think we’ve done five presentations in the last couple of years, and it’s never really gone over the edge. Today the discussion just turned dramatically, very positive and more realistic than it’s ever been. We walked out and said, ‘Did that just happen?’”

UHSAA executive director Rob Cuff thanked those in the lacrosse community for their patience and understanding the process whereby the needs of schools with vastly different situations must be considered.

“I want to really reach out and thank the lacrosse community for how they’ve handled all the discussions,” Cuff said. “We knew it was going to come on, but it was just a matter of time.”

College coaches were equally thrilled with the decision.

Westminster head coach Mason Goodhand said, “I would say it’s been 24 years of the game bringing good things to the community. We knew, just like all the other states, once we had all the support systems in place, this would be the next big jump. We’re very excited the high school activities association is ready to jump in.”

He said he believes the timing is perfect.

“I think the game can’t grow faster than the support mechanisms,” Goodhand said. “If you don’t have coaches and you don’t have referees, you don’t really have a quality sport. It’s taken this long to get the girth of the sport where it needs to be.”

He believes being a sanctioned sport will convince young athletes to look harder at lacrosse.

“Some point guards and free safeties and quarterbacks will consider putting a stick in their hands, and I think it will be a real boon to college athletics,” he said.

University of Utah head coach Brian Holman said,“it would be criminal not to make it a sanctioned sport.”

He said the popularity and growth make it next to impossible not to sanction.

“It will help,” he said. “It becomes official. Athletic directors are going to have to carve out field space, officiating will improve…It’s a huge trickle down effect.”