The History of Lacrosse: The College Game


Once the French settlers became interested in the Native American game between two teams, a ball and a stick with a racket end, they gave the game the generic name for any game played with a stick “Crosse,” and called it Lacrosse. The game began to grow in popularity in Canada, first with the settlers observing the Native game and joining in on the gambling. The soon began to play the game, form teams and “civilize” the game by changing the rules of physical contact and checking. In the 1900s the popularity grew in the non Native community when American Settler and European teams started to travel to play against Iroquois players.


The Iroquois Nationals were formed in the 1980s in result of Native American teams to not be permitted to play in World Games competition. For almost 100 year, native american teams were not considered professionals, and were charged travel and submission expenses into high level competition. With the fast adoption of lacrosse in the non native community, the Great Lakes traditional games died out by 1950. The Iroquois and southeastern tribes have continued their traditions of lacrosse, but the growth in collegiate lacrosse is what is keeping the native game alive.




The first college lacrosse game was played on November 22, 1877 between New York University and Manhattan College. There are now over 670 college lacrosse teams between men and women Divisions I, II, and III. Because of the popularity lacrosse had with Canadian settlers, the sport started heading south, first in upstate New York and gained momentum and popularity and it hit the southern states. In the early1900s, intercollegiate lacrosse leagues began to form to gain popularity amongst the male student- athlete community. Before scholarship money was involved, schools and leagues were divided between Divisions I, II and III dependent on their record, schedules and success of the five years prior to their current season.



Since the divisions and leagues were so flexible with circumstantial rankings,many years there were co national champions dependent on a point system and the end of the lacrosse season. It was not until the NCAA established a playoff system to determine a champion for each division level. Sine the beginning of the introduction of lacrosse at the college level, popularity is making its way across the country. The North East and parts on the South East are hubs for lacrosse players, but the game of sticks is quickly being picked up by west coasters and may California schools are transferring their club teams to NCAA divisions.


As the men’s sport grew in popularity, the rules strayed further and further away from the original play of the Native Americans. It was not until 1982 that the first women’s collegiate tournament was established. Women’s lacrosse is known for being agility and finesse skilled focus while men’s lacrosse leans towards strength. Women’s lacrosse adopted more similar rules and play style to the native game than men’s college lacrosse.


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