Hampton Makes History as ESPN Showcases Debut
History was made Saturday, as the Hampton men's lacrosse team became the first from a historically black college or university to debut at the NCAA Division I men's level.
The Pirates, who will play a five-game schedule as a D-I independent, faced Division II Roberts Wesleyan in their opener on a chilly afternoon at Armstrong Stadium on the campus of the Virginia university.
Hampton's coach, Lloyd Carter, played for Morgan State, the last HBCU team to face Division I competition 35 years ago, before the university cut its program for lack of funding. Morgan State was a Division II program.
The Hampton story was featured on the November cover of Lacrosse Magazine, with the headline, "It's real," the team's slogan — sometimes sung by Carter and the players — in reference to the historical significance and the quick transition from a relatively young club program to a varsity sport in just one offseason.
The team was the dream of a former Hampton student, Michael Crawford, who died in December 2010 of an undiagnosed enlarged heart, one semester short of graduation. He wanted to start a club team at Hampton. His mother, Verina, saw to it that it happened, seeing the project through the Hampton administration.
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.
It's the stuff movies are made of, and for two hours on Saturday morning, television shared the story. ESPN's SportsCenter broadcasted live from the Hampton campus, the first hour on ESPN and the second on ESPN2.
The coverage included features on Michael Crawford and his mother Verina. ESPN's Chris Connelly interviewed Pro Football and National Lacrosse Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who spoke about his love of lacrosse, and Hampton coach Lloyd Carter was interviewed live on the field at Armstrong Stadium about an hour before opening faceoff.
"Take advantage of your blessings," Carter said.
The team's three captains, Alex Sales, Jeremy Triplett and J.D. Kidd, also sat down for a pre-recorded interview with ESPN's Anish Shroff and Quint Kessenich in the Hampton football locker room.
"Someone is going to see us playing lacrosse," Sales said. "We're going to inspire some little boy, who sees someone that looks like them."
Carter's son, Lance, played for Roberts Wesleyan coach Rocky Delfino at a previous coaching stop. Upon the announcement that Hampton was going varsity, Delfino reached out to Carter and Saturday's game was scheduled. And history was made.
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