A chance to build a program of his own attracted Brad Keel to the opportunity to become the coach of the new men’s lacrosse program at St. Ambrose.

Director of athletics Ray Shovlain announced Monday the hiring of the St. Louis-area high school and club coach, saying Keel’s experience as a coach and his Midwestern recruiting contacts made him the right choice from a field of 60 applicants to lead a program that begins competition in the spring of 2014.

“His background as both a player and coach puts our program in a position to attract student-athletes that we need as we start our program,” Shovlain said. “He’s very energetic and enthusiastic about the opportunity and will do a lot to help us establish our program.”

Keel welcomes that chance.

“It’s an opportunity to build a program from the ground up, and if you look at where the school is located, between the Twin Cities, Chicago and St. Louis, all strong areas for the sport, I think St. Ambrose is positioned for success,” Keel said. “It’s great to be at one of the only schools in the area which will offer athletic scholarships in the sport.”

Before the Bees’ first team arrives on campus next fall, Keel expects recruiting to fill “about 90 percent” of his time.

“I’ve competed fairly recently in the league we expect to play in, and I feel that will allow me to connect with our players and allow me to recruit players who can be successful at this level,” he said.

Keel serves as the head coach at Seckman High School in Imperial, Mo., where he took over a second-year program that finished 0-12 in its first season and led it to a 6-6 record and a fifth-place finish in the Missouri state prep tournament.

He has worked as an assistant with the St. Louis Samurai Lacrosse Club and the Missouri 22 Select team.

Shovlain said Keel’s experience in developing the program at Seckman was important.

“When you are talking about a new program, it is a little different than bringing in a coach in a sport that is already established,” Shovlain said.

A three-year starter for the lacrosse team at Missouri Baptist, Keel was part of a 2011 team that won the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference title and advanced to the national tournament.

Shovlain said St. Ambrose has applied for admission to the Great Rivers Lacrosse Conference, a 24-team league that includes 12 Division-I programs and 14 Division-II programs from institutions in 10 states.

St. Ambrose is seeking admittance at the Division-II level, which includes Creighton, DePaul, Dordt, Judson, Lindenwood-Belleville, Missouri Baptist, Missouri S&T, Missouri State, Palmer, St. Louis University, Wabash, Washington-St. Louis and Wheaton.

The GRLC is a member of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association, which includes more than 200 non-NCAA college lacrosse teams competing in two divisions across 10 conferences.