'SportsCenter' to Broadcast from Hampton Before First Game
It's real, and "SportsCenter" has taken notice.
ESPN's signature show will go on the road and broadcast remotely for two hours from the campus of Hampton University prior to the Pirates' men's lacrosse season-opener at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 13 against Division II Roberts Wesleyan College.
It's the first varsity game for Hampton, the first NCAA Division I men's team from a historically black college or university in 35 years. Morgan State played its final season in 1981.
A player from that Morgan State team, Lloyd Carter, is the coach of Hampton. Lacrosse Magazine featured Carter and the Pirates as the cover story of its November 2015 edition, chronicling how the team came to be and the path less taken by Carter and his players.
The story of Hampton lacrosse is unique in many ways, including how the life and death of one of the university's former club players, Michael Crawford, who led efforts to start the varsity team before he died suddenly due to an enlarged heart in December 2010, inspired his family and teammates to pick up where he left off. US Lacrosse assisted the campaign by awarding the Hampton club a First Stick Program equipment grant in 2011, supporting Hampton Lacrosse Day in 2012 and the HBCU Lacrosse All-Star Classic in subsequent years.
The November issue of LM featured the Hampton men's lacrosse team.
LM was on hand this fall on the Virginia campus as the members of the current team received their equipment and practiced, and talked with many players, coaches and athletic department officials.
The team's slogan — "It's real," sometimes by sung by Carter and players during team activities — derives from the fact that Hampton was a club team as recently as last May. You can imagine the shock when Hampton athletic department officials announced lacrosse would go varsity, and to Division I, no less, for the 2016 season.
"The story behind our team speaks volumes," said junior Jourdan Ellis, who is on academic scholarship at Hampton and didn't intend to play lacrosse until being introduced to the game last year. "This is a movie-type thing. To be a part of this fills my heart with so much joy."
One of the team's three captains, long-stick midfielder Alex Sales, said the team recognizes the historical significance of the season.
"There's not much diversity within the lacrosse community," said Sales, a Winston-Salem, N.C., native who is in Hampton's five-year MBA program and is a leadership studies minor. "This gives an opportunity to those that come after us. We're blazing a path for them to play this game."
Fellow co-captain Jeremy Triplett attended De La Salle Institute in Chicago, an all-boys Catholic school before heading to Hampton, not to play lacrosse, either. "It's bringing diversity to the sport," Triplett said. "It's known as a Caucasian sport. We're adding some color and flavor to the game."
Hampton, which is the 70th NCAA Division I men's lacrosse team, is set to play six games this season, a modified schedule as it plays as an independent.
After the Feb. 13 game against Roberts Wesleyan, the Pirates will play Division III Theil on the road Feb. 27, play Wagner March 10 in Charlottesville, Va., face Division II Ohio Valley at home on March 19 and close with a road game at VMI on April 2.
It's a story that resonates, and "SportsCenter" will be on hand to share it.
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