Does Carthage's Doubleheader Break New Ground for NCAA Men's Programs?
[NOTE: I've since found out that Washington College played a doubleheader 20 years ago. On April 3, 1993, the Shoremen defeated Drew, 17-12, and followed that up with a win over FDU-Madison (now FDU-Florham), 29-0. Both games were on the road. In addition, Colorado College will also be playing a doubleheader in 2013 on March 31 when they play SCAC rivals Southwestern and Centenary (La.) in Georgetown, Texas.]
On Saturday, Feb. 23, Carthage men's lacrosse team will play Rhodes College in Memphis at 1 p.m. Later that day, the Red Men will square off against Birmingham-Southern in Memphis in a second non-conference game. From some anecdotal research, this appears be the first time that an NCAA men's program has played a pair of varsity, regular season contests in the same day.
It's not new to the sport. Several Division III women's teams have played a pair of games on a single day — typically by a ranked team against a pair of lesser opponents — and it has happened in the MCLA in seasons past. Carthage, however, appears to be the first to attempt the feat on the NCAA men's side.
Several long-time coaches I spoke with said they had never heard of it being done. Salisbury, which would be a likely a candidate to pull off the feat, has never played two games on the same date, either, according to sports information director Tim Brennan.
The ability to play a pair of games on a single day has always been there. NCAA schedules are based on dates of competition, not actual contests. Carthage, which is located in Kenosha, Wis., will be utilizing the maximum 17 dates in 2013, but will have 18 regular-season games.
Unlike Division III women's teams, which play double-headers in order to open up extra dates against non-conference competition, Carthage is trying to maximize its budget. Head coach Dave Neff had his schedule set when he was approached by Birmingham-Southern, a team Carthage had played in the past. The possibility of doubling up his trip to Memphis — a hefty, 10-hour bus ride — especially against an NCAA qualifier like the Panthers, was irresistible.
The actual results of the double dip are inconsequential for Neff.
"My mindset is we're more worried about the conference and we're just going to get two games in a day and hopefully we'll do well in it, but even if we come home 0-2, we'll get a lot of experience," he said. "It's a win for us either way from that standpoint."
Neff knows that the Red Men don't have the schedule weight to compete for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but Carthage is among three or four candidates to win the Midwest Lacrosse Conference automatic bid after the departure of Adrian to the MIAA. If he can get his team, which is comprised of 70 percent freshmen and sophomores, enough field time prior to the MLC slate, he'll be a leg up.
"It's going to be tough, but we're so young the biggest goal is to get as much experience as we can," Neff said. "We're just going to bite the bullet and see what happens."
Could this be a new trend in NCAA men's lacrosse? Neff said that he'll see how this round goes and evaluate from there. Still, the physical nature of the sport — and the potential for an increase in injuries — will likely keep it from becoming a common occurrence. Most NCAA coaches try to avoid playing two games on the same weekend, never mind on the same day.
There's a first time for everything, however, and Carthage will see if it can double its pleasure.