Staying in Canada for an Ivy League Education at McGill

By Tim Murdoch

Why has the McGill University men's field lacrosse team been successful in recruiting student-athletes? The answer is that McGill sells itself. Ranked among the world's top 25 universities, McGill delivers a world-class education at half the cost of its Ivy League counterparts, where annual costs can soar above US$50,000.

Founded in 1821, McGill is located in Montréal, a historic city with an exciting nightlife and countless social activities. McGill's rich history of sport includes the first football game (1874 - McGill vs. Harvard), the invention of basketball (by McGill grad Robert Naismith) and the birthplace of university hockey.

Yet Canada's national sport of lacrosse arrived late on the scene in 2001, when a club lacrosse team was formed by an ambitious McGill freshman, Sachin Anand. McGill's lacrosse team rose from obscurity in 2001 to its inaugural appearance at Canada's university championship in 2008.

Lacrosse at McGill is a natural fit: Montréal is the birthplace of our national summer game, played for centuries in Canada's Mohawk communities as 'bagattaway' in nearby Akwesasne and Kahnawake. Students at nearby Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf have played lacrosse for centuries in Montréal.

McGill plays in the 12-team Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association founded in 1985. Surprisingly, many Canadian student-athletes are unaware that it is actually cheaper to attend McGill or another CUFLA school, than to accept many NCAA scholarships at US colleges.

Many Canadian lacrosse coaches are eager to promote athletes to NCAA coaches, often overlooking CUFLA. This is understandable, since NCAA lacrosse is appealing and CUFLA has limited resources to promote itself. However, fulltuition NCAA lacrosse scholarships are rare and NCAA men's lacrosse is expanding very slowly due to Title IX that requires NCAA colleges to field both men's and women's teams in any sport.

In Canada, CUFLA has tripled in size since its origins as a four-team Ontario league. CUFLA is poised to expand again in 2012 with two new university teams being added in Québec. The Maritime University Field Lacrosse League (MUFLL) also fields a league, giving Canadians university lacrosse players more than just one option.

At McGill, we encourage Canadian players to consider staying in Canada versus making a bee-line to the NCAA. We've found this message to be very effective. In fact, McGill's geographically diverse roster has featured scholar-athletes from five provinces (Alberta, BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec) and 20 US states.

Paradoxically, American-born student-athletes are quick to appreciate outstanding value in heading north for McGill's lower-cost education in Canada - attracted to Montréal and the chance to play competitive college lacrosse. In the years to come, we hope to see more Canadians looking in their own backyards and applying to McGill or another appealing Canadian university in CUFLA.

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A dual US and Canadian Citizen, Tim Murdoch is Head Coach of McGill University's Redmen lacrosse team. He played four years of NCAA varsity lacrosse at Princeton University and has coached the McGill Redmen for nine seasons, including 2008 when McGill reached the national championship and CUFLA named McGill as Canada's Coaching Staff of the Year.


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