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BULLETIN: Oct. 7, 2016 — Division I women’s lacrosse Final Four to be held in parallel with men’s tourney for the first time

Since the NCAA took over the sanctioning of women’s national championships from the AIAW in 1982, the time has been rare when the men’s championship in a particular sport and division is held at the same time and location as the women’s championship event.

Notable exceptions are in swimming, track, and cross-country, as well as occasions where NCAA Division II holds a festival of championships when all of the title matches in a particular season are held in one city or geographical designation.

This afternoon, it was announced that the 2017 Division I championship semifinals and finals would be held in Foxboro, Mass., the same weekend the men are holding not only the Division I title match, but the Division II and III finals as well.

There are a few reasons why this makes sense:

  1. Division I men’s lacrosse Final Four attendance has been down. Even though the last dozen championships have been held in locations easily accessible from major populations centers (Baltimore, Philadelphia, Foxboro), there has been a drop since the start of The Great Recession. In 2007, the final in Baltimore drew more than 52,000, with total attendance of all three levels of the men’s game over 123,000. Compare that to the final this year in Philadelphia, which drew a shade over 33,000, and total three-division attendance was short of 83,000.
  2. Division I women’s lacrosse Final Four attendance has been down, too. This past year, with the championship in Chester, Pa., the final drew 7,129. Compare that to just two years before at Towson University, when the final drew nearly 11,000 fans.
  3. The Belichick Effect. The tournament host is the University of Massachusetts, which, in 2010, had an assistant coach named Amanda Belichick. The site? Gillette Stadium, where her father Bill, a former goalie for Wesleyan, coaches the New England Patriots of the NFL. It can’t be coincidence.

It’s been since 2006 when the greater Boston area has held the women’s Final Four, when Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University held the games. And I think it’s going to be interesting to see what the synergy is going to be with both Division I titles being decided at the same site on the same weekend.

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