Mesa State selects A.J. Stevens to jump-start lacrosse program
A.J. Stevens finally found the right job as a lacrosse coach.
Stevens, 39, was introduced Thursday as Mesa State College’s director of lacrosse and men’s lacrosse coach.
Mesa State added lacrosse to its athletics program in February.
“First of all, it’s an opportunity to be a head coach,” Stevens said. “Second of all, this is someplace my family wants to be. I married my wife 3½ years ago and when you get married, all of a sudden when you take jobs you have to ask if it’s OK.
“At the time, she was telling me no to everywhere. I looked at her, ‘What about Grand Junction?’ She said, ‘Apply.’ I didn’t give her a chance to change her mind.”
The men’s and women’s programs play their first seasons in the spring of 2011 at Walker Field.
“He has the experience, knowledge and proven record to make an immediate impact in the sport of lacrosse around the region,” Mesa State Athletic Director Butch Miller said.
There are currently 50 NCAA Division II women’s programs and 34 men’s programs in the nation, but only two currently in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Adams State’s women’s lacrosse team will begin play in 2011.
Mesa State President Tim Foster said there will be some scholarship money available for the women’s program, but initially the men’s program will not offer scholarships. Stevens, though, is confident he can lure players to field a competitive team.
“I believe we can be one of the top programs in the nation,” Stevens said. “The amount of growth in the western United States is such, there are a lot of kids and opportunities for them.
“Recently, Inside Lacrosse magazine picked Denver as the No. 1 lacrosse town in America. That’s pretty impressive. The growth is unbelievable, especially in Colorado. For us at Mesa State, a lot of kids will get a chance to play in-state.”
Stevens, who grew up in Moab before moving to the Midwest in high school, comes to Mesa State after two years as the head coach of the University of Illinois club team. He led the Illini to the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference championship game each season and finished 23-13.
Stevens was also on the staff of Chicago’s Major League Lacrosse franchise.
Prior to being a head coach at the University of Illinois, Stevens was an assistant coach at Dartmouth College. The Big Green won the Ivy League title and was ranked among the top 20 teams in the nation while Stevens was there.
He was a head coach at Division III Roger Williams University for one year, leading the Hawks to a 7-7 record in the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Stevens was also the head coach at Indiana University for four years, going 44-23.
He played three years of varsity lacrosse for the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.