In the Zone: Club teams getting it done

Leather balls and gloves get the attention.  Always have, always will.

With the limelight focused there, however, Utah Valley fans risk missing what’s happening with leather saddles and plastic crosses (lacrosse sticks, not religious emblems) likewise competing under the Wolverine logo and colors.

Same school, different status. They are club teams, a local label that defies their national prestige. To date:

  • UVU Rodeo recently boasted two cowboys who finished in the top-three in their respective events – in the nation The Wolverines finished 12th overall ahead of Texas A&M, Utah State and Montana State.
  • Lacrosse went to Division II nationals for the second consecutive year. They lost in the first round – to the eventual champion.
  • Men’s soccer has games scheduled with University of Utah and Boise State.

This is legit stuff, people. And no, this isn’t my side of some back-alley deal struck between UVU Clubs and myself. After the stories come to light, however, it’s hard not to root for them. We’re a nation of underdogs, and club sports are the ’08 New York Giants of college athletics.

They do everything themselves. Coaches are usually volunteers. Players double as financial boosters.

The lacrosse team made do with trucks and vans when faced with traveling to Colorado for nationals. They fled to the far north fields after the soccer turf was officially upgraded.

And yet they play on, without a fixed budget or professional staff watching, helping and reporting their every move. They’re the JV to the Athletic Department’s varsity squads, except they still perform at the same level – if not higher.

This isn’t a knock on men’s or women’s basketball, baseball or volleyball. The fact that those programs succeed despite all the attention and pressure to do so is remarkable, especially without a football team to take away some of the heat.

But with that pressure and prestige come restrictions, at least as long as UVU remains in a conference without an automatic bid. In such a position, the NCAA plays both blessing and curse, providing exposure but limiting potential.

Not so with club sports, which find that a little more leeway goes a long way to national prestige.

Whether anyone knows about them or not.

Matt Petersen can be reached at petersensports@gmail.com or followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sportswriter93.

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