Missouri Western announces women's lacrosse athletic program

Missouri Western president Matthew Wilson said during a media event Tuesday at Western that women’s lacrosse is one of the fastest NCAA sports, with a 58% increase in sports sponsorship over the past 10 years.

We don’t have a problem with the sport of lacrosse. The main piece of equipment, a stick with a net on one end, seems to resemble something you could use to chase butterflies.

In this sport’s case, the device is used to carry, pass, catch and shoot a ball into a net. Think of Patrick Mahomes running around Arrowhead Stadium swinging a stick. What’s not to like about that?

We don’t have a problem with adding another women’s sport at Missouri Western State University. Faced with a potential loss of federal funding over Title IX compliance, any university would prefer adding a women’s sport to the elimination of a men’s sport.

Missouri Western officials, in announcing the addition of a woman’s lacrosse program, took pains to describe the sport as revenue neutral, or possibly a money-maker. They note that Western already has a field and locker room, which would save on upfront costs. They hope the sport makes Missouri Western more attractive to potential students.

By that, they mean students from more affluent school districts with lacrosse programs.

In fact, Western officials seemed eager to depict the move as anything but an extravagance at a time of belt-tightening.

Perhaps they understood that the elephants in the room at Tuesday’s lacrosse announcement were those employees who lost jobs or transferred to other openings following the university’s decision to cut 35 positions just last week. The timing had to generate a few raised eyebrows on campus, but to us that wasn’t even the biggest pachyderm to ignore.

The day before the lacrosse announcement, a survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that large numbers of young Americans are questioning the value of a college education. About half said a high school education provides the skills needed to get a good job. Meanwhile, 4 in 10 respondents, all between the ages of 13 and 29, believe a bachelor’s degree prepares people only somewhat well, or even poorly, for today’s economy.

These results should alarm the leadership at any university, including Western. These officials should be asking why so many people in a key demographic fail to grasp the importance of higher education, despite data and evidence that proves otherwise.

What could make these skeptics see the light? The answer isn’t more lacrosse, artisan coffee shops or other bells and whistles. It’s a focus on providing learning opportunities and degree programs that forge a path to good jobs without crushing levels of debt.

Western always has been at the tip of the spear when it comes to offering value in higher education. Let’s hope it stays that way.