If there are to be official Kentucky High School Athletic Association championships for boys’ and girls’ lacrosse next spring, more schools must express interest in the sport by the KHSAA Board of Control’s next meeting in September.
Lacrosse proponents have been seeking KHSAA sanctioning for years and appeared on the threshold of obtaining official status when the pandemic hit last year, but as of Friday’s board of control meeting there were only 37 boys’ teams and 38 girls’ teams working through their school athletic directors to officially request KHSAA sponsorship, Commissioner Julian Tackett told the board during its work session at a Newport hotel on Friday.
The KHSAA’s bylaws require at least 50 schools to be involved for it to sponsor a championship postseason. The 50-school requirement could be waived for girls’ lacrosse as it has been for field hockey, Tackett indicated. Field hockey fields less than 20 teams, almost all in the Louisville area, but is supported as a Title IX accommodation.
“This is all about the discussion of the 2022 spring (season). It’s not a forever thought for the board,” Tackett said. “The state regulation, the sponsorship, sanctioning decision says you won’t have postseason play without 50. It does not stop schools from playing.”
The board directed the KHSAA staff to remind interested schools of the 50-program minimum and will determine whether to hold lacrosse championships for the 2022 season at its next meeting.
High school lacrosse has become more popular over the last several years, but most teams in Kentucky are run as club programs outside their schools’ athletic department budgets. Becoming a KHSAA-sponsored sport would mean some expenses, such as head coaches’ salaries, would be picked up by the school and alleviate some financial barriers to the sport and potentially grow it further.
But the financial barriers are a significant factor in why the sport hasn’t caught on outside the state’s major cities, Henry Clay boys’ Coach William “Sport” Richmond said.
“If it’s sanctioned, it’s going to open up the sport and provide more opportunities for people who couldn’t afford to play,” he said.
The KHSAA board of control next meets Sept. 22 and at that time will also have the results of its triennial survey regarding all of its activities. Lacrosse has been on the KHSAA’s radar since participation crossed the 30 teams mark for boys and girls, and, logistically, the KHSAA is ready for it, Tackett said.
“I’ve been coaching for 11 years and it’s been talked about for most of my coaching career,” said Richmond, who led the Blue Devils to a Commonwealth Lacrosse League state championship this year. “… I don’t know if everybody’s totally aware of it right now. I know another email went out this morning from the president of the Kentucky Lacrosse Association to tell everybody.”
This past season, Kentucky’s high school lacrosse teams were split into two separate entities for both boys and girls with each declaring state champions. Fayette County and Lexington-area schools compete in the Commonwealth Lacrosse League. Meanwhile, Louisville-area schools and some others play in the Kentucky Scholastic Lacrosse League.
The boys’ CLL included 23 teams — all nine Lexington schools are a part — and featured teams from as far away as Bowling Green. The KSLL had more than a dozen boys’ teams. On the girls’ side, there were 17 active Commonwealth league teams from Lexington and areas across the state and 17 KSLL girls’ teams from around Louisville plus Notre Dame from northern Kentucky.
Unifying the sport under the KHSAA umbrella might mean that Louisville private schools dominate the sport as private schools have done in volleyball for decades. But that doesn’t matter to Henry Clay’s Richmond.
“I could care less about a championship. I just want to see how we compete against Trinity and St. X(avier),” Richmond said. “I think it would be good for the sport. More players would have opportunities. More schools would have it. It’s the fastest growing sport in the nation, right now.”