Two Montana lacrosse players chase across the field during a fun scrimmage in celebration of taking first in the team's division. 

Tucker Sargent, the University of Montana men’s lacrosse coach, stood in the middle of the Dornblaser auxiliary field Wednesday evening while the UM lacrosse team worked through its warm-up drills. The team is playing preseason games in preparation for the spring season.

Sargent has been the UM men’s lacrosse coach for about a decade. He works to keep the team as active as possible with a tight budget.

Though Griz lacrosse has played at a high level across the Northwest, because of its club status, it is not funded by the athletic department. Instead, the Associated Students of the University of Montana offers the lacrosse program $2,400 a year.

We go on national trips to play some of the best programs in the country,” Sargent said. The opponents in the upcoming 2020 season are some of the best teams in Division II lacrosse, including North Dakota State and Minnesota Duluth. Last year the Griz went to the national championship tournament in Salt Lake City to play the University of Dayton.

When freshman goalie Hunter Heaston found out about the ASUM budget, he was shocked. “That is less than my high school's lacrosse budget,” he said.

Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in college athletics. A US Lacrosse report found that there are over 900 collegiate programs across the country. It became popular on the east coast, but has expanded to every part of the country. Now over 30,000 college students play the game. The team at UM is part of the Men's Club Lacrosse League. UM men’s lacrosse is also the reigning champion in its conference, the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League.

Coach Sargent estimated that the University of Montana lacrosse team needs $100,000 a year to travel to games, pay for equipment, and cover tournament entry fees. Sargent explained that most of the money comes from the players themselves, roughly $2,500 per person. The rest is supplied through fundraisers and donations.

Sargent said the money is not the real issue, as the team has been able to compete with limited funds from ASUM since 1997. The larger problem is that the University of Montana is not inclusive toward club sports, he said.

“What the University needs to do is better support these club sports programs,” Sargent said. “Not necessarily financially, but by doing the little things like promoting events or giving teams access to better amenities.”

Sargent noted that the team has to prac- tice in Washington-Grizzly Stadium when the Dornblaser fields freeze over in the winter. Since the lacrosse team is considered a club, the athletic department charges the team for using the stadium. This costs the program roughly $150 a week.

Captain Aidan Larson, a senior, has been playing with the Griz since he was a freshman. He is positive about the program. “I like the club atmosphere because it gives me more flexibility to enjoy college,” Larson said.

However, Larson noticed that the team did not receive attention from University PR platforms as much as other sports and academic programs. “Going back to my home in Utah and telling people I play lacrosse at Montana seriously surprised some people,” he said.

In 2018, the men's lacrosse team hired two students to broadcast games and release press reports to the public because the University of Montana did not publish news about the sport. While hiring outside help was successful in promoting the team, Tucker said that University publicity would be better not only for lacrosse, but all club sports.

“All the University departments are very fractured and focused on their specific job, rather than working together to better the University system,” Tucker said.

Sargent said by working together, different organizations could help present a form of unity for the University. “ASUM just handles the money side, admission tells students lacrosse exists, and athletics lets us rent a field,” he said. “But nobody is asking what lacrosse can do for the University of Montana in terms of student engagement.”