For most sports at Columbia, winning a league title at any level should merit some level of recognition from both the student body and the athletic administration, but in the case of the Columbia lacrosse club, neither of these has been given. The club, which dates back between 50 and 60 years, is one of the most successful sports at any level at Columbia and is certainly one of the winningest club sports.
The club, which participates in the National Club Lacrosse League, which is the biggest club lacrosse league in the country, has had incredible success in the last few years under the guidance and leadership of captain and president Julien Barbey, CC ’09.
Barbey has been with the club since his freshman year at Columbia, when he and graduate student Jim Watson helped resurrect the club which had just seen its coach quit. Today the club has 22 members and accepts members of all skill levels, even those who have never picked up a lacrosse stick before. And while the club currently does not have a coach, it has proven more than capable of succeeding on the big stages of the national club lacrosse scene.
“My freshman year, we just got a spring season together at the last minute, and our team just barely made the playoffs in the NCLL,” said Barbey. “But my sophomore year, the spring of 2007, we had a loaded team. We had three varsity athlete transfers, four students who quit the football team, and a grad student who was All-Ivy as an undergraduate.”
The team, which Barbey believes would have competed with middle-tier Division I schools, went 23-1 that spring, in what Barbey referred to as “a breakout year for the club.” The club won the Beltway Bash tournament at the University of Maryland, which is the largest club lacrosse tournament in the country, and got a chance to play NYU in Madison Square Garden, an honor for any team. But the lacrosse club refused to stop there as they went on to win the NCLL national title, defeating Cortland State in the finals.
“In the huddle before the finals, everyone on the team was excited and pumped up,” said Barbey. “And I just pulled all the guys in and told them that this was our team, our club, we organized this, that it wasn’t about fans, or Columbia, it was about the group of guys in that huddle. And we went out and won the game by a three-goal margin.”
However, neither Barbey nor the club as a whole is satisfied by where they sit as of now.
“One of the goals for the club is to move into the MCLA [Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association]. It’s a much more organized league, which is more similar to the NCAA, in that they have the same set of rules.”
“The ultimate goal for this club, and I believe that it is the one glaring tarnish on Columbia athletics, is the lack of a varsity men’s lacrosse team,” said Barbey. “Myself, and an ex-member of the club, Matt Reuter, put together the necessary outline for a varsity sports and submitted it to Brian Jines for the Varsity Club board. Athletic Director Dianne Murphy is supposed to contact the club, but we submitted it in January [of 2008] and we still have not heard back.”
Barbey believes that there are three main factors which could theoretically harbor the club from attaining varsity status, but outlined a solution to all of them in the club’s submission to the board. One of the main factors, field space, is not an issue according to Barbey, as the club uses the soccer field in the spring, when the soccer team has a very limited practice schedule per Ivy League regulations. In addition, Barbey estimates that it would take around a quarter of a million dollars to start the varsity lacrosse program, which is a relatively small portion of the $100 million the Athletic Department is currently trying to raise. Additionally, Barbey cites an important corollary between the success of the men’s and women’s lacrosse program, using examples such as Penn and Georgetown which have strong programs for both men and women. Finally, Barbey believes that a men’s lacrosse program would also bring some much needed exposure to Columbia athletics.
“The Ivy League is the most successful lacrosse league in the country,” continued Barbey. “And lacrosse is a sport which is on a huge upward swing.”
For right now, the club has its eyes set on much more attainable goals for the short run.
“We are looking to keep the club organized, get alumni donations to help us keep running, and hire a full-time coach to make us more competitive, and hopefully, one day we can get the varsity team that we want.”