This past March, St. Bonaventure University announced that men’s lacrosse would be added as its 17th Division I athletic program.
Previously, Bona’s had a lacrosse team from 1989-93 before moving the team down to a club level.
On June 20, athletics director Tim Kenney announced Randy Mearns as the head coach. Mearns had been the head coach of the Canisius College men’s lacrosse team for 19 years. Mearns is also the head coach of the Canadian National Team.
Mearns reasoning for leaving Canisius was he had a vision for what he could create at St. Bonaventure.
“Through my conversations with Tim Kenney, I was in awe of the campus and the facilities,” Mearns said. “It came down to what men’s lacrosse can do in a global sense. The vision of what men’s lacrosse, and when everyone’s vision is the same, that’s when I knew we could win a national championship here.”
The difficulty of winning that championship is the current lack of a team. Mearns has been working hard to recruit the right set of first-year students with the same mindset he has for the team.
“There are 72 Division I lacrosse teams,” Mearns said. “If you recruit all the right-fit guys, you can do something special in a short amount of time. Globally, it allows the St. Bonaventure name to get out in the United States or Canada or internationally. The game of lacrosse has exploded throughout the North America, so you can recruit kids from [all over the country], and my challenge is to find the right-fit kids with high goals and high dreams.”
A key aspect of Mearns’ coaching style is that it is focused on the players. His office has a desk and a couch with blank walls. When an athlete commits to be a Bonnie, Mearns asks them to give him something that is significant to them, and he will cover his office with things that are meaningful to his team.
“As we build this, after year one, year two, St. Bonaventure can become nationally recognized in Division I athletics,” Mearns said. “Now if you can get to a point at year three, year four where we’re a nationally recognized program playing on ESPN or ESPNU, that’s good for the institution.”
Lacrosse will also be a fully funded sport, which means in a few years, the team will have a full team of coaches and utilize the 12.5 scholarships that will help build the program.
Mearns said recruiting has been challenging because of the lack of a team currently. While he can bring recruits to campus for a day tour, they are unable to stay overnight and get a feel for the campus.
“It was trying to sell a lot of the vision and understanding what we’re trying to do,” Mearns said. “I try to delve into what drives these guys and leads them to believe they can do something amazing. I really tried to be position-specific and understand the talent and skill-level, the lax IQ and understand why they are doing this.”
A big part of the program Mearns talked about was the conditioning that would be involved. When recruiting potential student-athletes, Mearns made it clear the commitment the athletes would have to make. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he said the team will be running at 6 a.m. and will have conditioning Saturday mornings at 7 a.m., as well.
The rigid schedule needs to be enforced because of the lack of upper-level leadership on the team. The majority of the team will be first-year college students, and unless Mearns can bring in some transfer students, the team will be very young.
“A lot of programs that started from scratch have gone 0-14,” Mearns said. “I don’t want to be 0-14. I know it will take us some time to build, and we’ll have a bunch of true freshmen. I’d like to go 7-7 as a brand-new program with majority freshmen. I can’t guarantee that, but I know I don’t want to go 0-14.”
Lacrosse will get its first taste of action next fall as the team kicks off its first season during the 2018-19 school year.