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The Utah High School Activities Association isn't inclined to sanction new sports on a regular basis. Girls' golf received its own designation as an independent sport in 2008, which broke the 18-year hiatus since softball was added in 1990.
This trend is not a reflection of a lack of options. Local club sports participating at the high school level range from rodeo, hockey and bowling to canoeing, race walking and bass fishing. However, many club sports prefer to remain unsanctioned for various reasons particularly to avoid regulations and procedures established by the UHSAA while others petition for inclusion, such as lacrosse, which is widely believed to be on the precipice of joining the realm of sanctioned sports.
"There are lot of different sports we can add, so that's why our board takes these proposals very seriously," said UHSAA Executive Director Rob Cuff.
Two formal presentations were recently conducted for the UHSAA Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, which elected to send the information to the Athletic Directors Association (ADEC) typically the first step of the process. The ADEC then distributed surveys to each member school with specific questions to gauge the state of lacrosse in preparation to make a recommendation to the Executive Committee in August.
There presently are 42 boys' lacrosse programs operating at the prep level, with 30 of those schools also rostering girls' programs. If sanctioned, lacrosse would start with two classifications 6A and 5A thus requiring programs like Class 2A's Waterford to play up to the nearest competition while the sport expands.
The earliest lacrosse could begin sanctioned competition is the fall of 2017. The sport is currently played in the spring, which is one of the main issues surrounding the process: what season would lacrosse be placed into? Athletes are allowed to participate on one team per season, so lacrosse conflicts with softball and golf for girls; baseball, soccer and tennis for boys; and track and field for both genders in the spring.
"We haven't got to the point and we probably wouldn't until we bring them on to ask their preferences for seasons," Cuff said. "It would be hard to put [boys'] lacrosse in the fall with football, but do you put both boys' and girls' lacrosse together in the spring? I think those are questions that are hard to answer right now."
Another obstacle is the cost of play. Lacrosse is played exclusively in urban areas locally, and the stereotype attached to the sport is it's played only by the wealthy, with participation fees, including equipment, reaching as much as $1,000.
"In terms of costs, it certainly is a barrier. The cost is a little daunting at first. There's no doubt," said Tim Haslam, the founder of the website utahlacrossenews.com. … "You get into the pop culture stuff, and you're a director and want to portray a rich, preppy white kid guess what sport they're playing? They're playing lacrosse. I don't know if that will ever go away, but it's certainly changing."
The price of play would decrease significantly if sanctioned, however. Each district has an established cost for each sport, which includes equipment, officials and transportation, but in return, coaches would potentially need to sacrifice higher pay. Any sport sanctioned by the UHSAA has to adhere to its rules, which include the scholastic rule of maintaining a minimum 2.0 grade-point average, contest limitations, and, according to Cuff, "coaches can only make what other coaches at their school make."
Although challenges certainly accompany sanctioning a sport, there are obvious benefits, too. "I think that door swings both ways," Cuff said. In addition to generating more exposure, notoriety and school pride, lacrosse would gain more opportunities to utilize high school facilities instead of contracting out. Gated fields also fuel the ability to turn revenue with regulated admission, and the UHSAA provides catastrophic insurance to cover major injuries.
Though the process is in its infancy, Cuff said he believes it's only a "matter of time" before lacrosse is sanctioned, as the positives outweigh the negatives.
"I know there are factors and hurdles for the schools, so I can't speak for them," Cuff said. "I think looking at the way lacrosse is being supported at a youth level and also at other states that have lacrosse, I think it's certainly a popular sport enough that they're going to have a lot of teams."
State of lacrosse
There are 42 boys' lacrosse club teams and 30 girls' teams in Utah high schools:.
Boys' programs • Alta, American Fork, Bingham, Bonneville, Bountiful, Box Elder, Brighton, Copper Hills, Corner Canyon, Davis, Desert Hills, East, Fremont, Herriman, Highland, Jordan, Juan Diego, Judge Memorial, Lehi, Logan, Lone Peak, Mountain Crest, Northridge, Olympus, Park City, Pleasant Grove, Riverton, Roy, Sky View, Skyline, Spanish Fork, Syracuse, Timpanogos, Timpview, Viewmont, Wasatch, Waterford, Weber, West, West Jordan, Westlake, Woods Cross.
Girls' programs • Alta, American Fork, Bingham, Brighton, Copper Hills, Corner Canyon, Davis, Herriman, Jordan, Juan Diego, Judge Memorial, Lehi, Lone Peak, Mountain Crest, Olympus, Park City, Pleasant Grove, Riverton, Roy, Sky View, Skyline, Timpanogos, Timpview, Viewmont, Wasatch, Waterford, Weber, West, West Jordan, Woods Cross.