Lacrosse Magazine's New Year's Wishes
|National Lacrosse Hall of Famer
Kelly Amonte Hiller has built a powerhouse women's program at
Northwestern. Will conference realignment and lacrosse's Midwestern
growth spur Northwestern to add a varsity men's team?
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
With the new year upon us, Lacrosse Magazine writers were asked to look ahead to what they hope will happen in 2013. Here's what they came up with:
I wish the NCAA would intervene and save the Division I coaches from themselves, specifically with regard to early recruiting
Most everyone in the sport agrees recruiting has gotten out of control, and the speed at which the process has accelerated in recent years isn't positive. Four freshmen — 15-year-olds who haven't played a high school lacrosse game yet — made verbal commitments this fall and winter. Many coaches were at recruiting events on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, not spending time with their families. Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala estimated that 98 percent of coaches are "in favor of change, if we can do it the right way." But there are too many factors complicating self-imposed regulations by the IMLCA, and it's not as easy as suggesting a "gentlemen's agreement." For example, the coaches' association discussed banning any and all contact with prospects before July 1 of their junior year. But who enforces those rules, and how are they monitored? What punishments are handed out if someone breaks the code? As Pietramala said, "We need teeth in our policing of the rules set in place." It'll be very difficult — almost impossible — for the IMLCA to do it. There's a reason status quo has been the norm. The NCAA needs to step in, and the organization needs to create separate rules for lacrosse than other Olympic sports. The circumstances vary, and the rules should too.
I wish the NCAA would dictate lacrosse-specific start dates for practices, and more importantly, games
In case you missed it, the Syracuse and Jacksonville women will play the first Division I game of the season on Jan. 13. That's not a misprint. They will play a game — not a scrimmage — 67 days before the official start of spring. And I thought Delaware and High Point men meeting Feb. 2 was early. I'm not sure they exist, but I can think of no advantages for playing games so early. The NCAA issues mandatory start dates in football and basketball, along with baseball, another "spring" sport in which northern teams can be at a weather-induced disadvantage. How about March 1 as a solution? That's essentially when Ivy League teams are allowed to start, and they still manage to play a 14-game schedule. A few more mid-week games might even make for more parity; ask Maryland about playing UMBC last year.
I wish my alma mater, Northwestern, would add Division I men's lacrosse
It's time. The Midwestern Growth Movement is undeniable — Michigan, Marquette and Detroit Mercy made the move, while flagships Notre Dame and Denver are only strengthening — and a Big Ten lacrosse conference could be coming, with Maryland and Rutgers joining. It would be a logical step for Northwestern, which has the facilities and foundation in place. A full allotment of scholarships would help yield immediate returns on the field. Kelly Amonte Hiller would guide the way — heck, she could even coach the team. Wouldn't that be fun to see?
I wish Casey Carroll success
I wish 28-year-old Duke defenseman Casey Carroll success in his return to college lacrosse after serving four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger. And in his journey of fatherhood. (His wife Erin gave birth to their son, Casey, in September.) Can you imagine sharing a locker room with somebody so worldly? I'm 30, and I feel like I want Carroll to tell me the meaning of life. Imagine being a 17-year-old wide-eyed freshman in Durham. Now that's an example to follow.
|Defenseman Casey Carroll returns
to Duke this year after serving four deployments in Iraq and
Afghanistan with the U.S. Army.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
I wish there was a women's professional league
This is piggy-backing on an idea endorsed in a 2011 Lacrosse Magazine editorial by Matt DaSilva. It's a pipe dream, but if some wealthy investors put up the money, the WMLL or WNLL would have the potential to be the country's most popular women's professional league. The women's game has its own nuances and is quite different from the men's game, so it would be almost like introducing a brand new professional sport. The chance to watch the best players continue to compete at a high level, and see them make some money for it, would be a win for everyone.
I wish for continued emerging rivalries
I'm thinking specifically of Northwestern-Florida women. The dynasty that the Wildcats have going is one of the best all-time in any sport, but for them to have a consistent foil would benefit the game. Maryland knocked off Northwestern in the title game in 2010 and the Terps will always present a callenge, but the 'Cats have otherwise won seven of eight Division I national titles since 2005. The fourth-year Gators are the ones to watch out for. Florida actually has an all-time winning record against Northwestern (3-2), and has beaten the 'Cats three out of the last four times they've met. The Gators won twice last year, once on the road and once at home in the ALC title game. Maybe they are already the consistent foil. Watch Syracuse, too. There's no love lost between the Orange and 'Cats after last year's national championship game.
Think of it in terms of tennis: Yeah, it was nice when Roger
Federer steam-rolled vritually all opponents in the early 2000s
until 2008, but how great did tennis become when Rafael Nadal,
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray emerged as legitmate threats to
I wish there was a lacrosse television network
There are two History Channels, a Golf Channel and eight-hundred or so other options from my cable telvision provider. Why not a lacrosse channel? Detractors will say the sport is not ready, but I really think it's only a matter of time — not immediate, but eventually. There are games played almost every day of the week from all levels from February until May (trust me, we keep track), enough to fill up air time in-season. Out of season, there are plenty of possibilities for other programming, like instructional segments (kind of like the Golf Channel), talk shows, news shows and classic games. Maybe somebody creates a lacrosse commentary radio show to run for hours during the day, a la Mike Francesa on WFAN in New York — without, of course, the hanging up on callers prematurely. A pipe dream maybe, but it would be great for lacrosse.
I wish lacrosse stays in the headlines for the right reasons
Hopefully, in 2013 when the mainstream media talks lacrosse, they won't be harping on past scandals, marketing campaigns gone horribly wrong, or some abstract "lax bro" movement that never really existed in the first place.
Instead they will see lacrosse for what it is: A once-regional sport with deep historical roots that is taking the county by storm. Heck, at this point I'm even getting excited for the annual February rituals. You know, where publications buy bandwith and message-board posters type furiously to chirp parity and pace of play.
I wish Scott Urick begins creating a powerhouse at UDC
Lost in the excitement of Kevin Warne bringing his mosh routine on the Hilltop, is that Georgetown's longtime men's offensive coordinator Scott Urick was displaced.
Urick landed on his feet as the head coach at a nascent University of the District of Columbia program. While I don't know if the school has much in the way of institutional advantages, hopefully Urick can position UDC as one of the few Division II programs in the Mid-Atlantic.
I wish Haverford College wins the Centennial Conference title
I'll admit I'm not a huge college football fan. I just never understood how invested people could be in some college team. Who cares that much? Then I took a long look in the mirror and realized that, despite being half a decade removed from my Haverford playing days, I was checking my alma mater's roster to look for returning starters while planning my spring travels around the alumni game.
Here's to hoping the Black Squirrels get some of that Max Hjelm mojo back to bring home another Centennial title.
I sincerely wish that all of the quality Division III men's Pool B teams can find a way to the .500 mark
As I wrote about earlier this month, Pool B — which is set aside for independent teams and for those conferences who have yet to qualify for AQ status — is receiving five bids this spring. It's two more berths than it has ever received before, and really gives the Indies a chance to show their stuff. But a lot of the high-end teams could find themselves in a pinch.
Because they've been operating under the iron fist of the NCAC for so long, teams like Whittier, Greensboro and others have been stacking their schedules with RPI-pleasing opponents in hopes of giving themselves a chance. It's a smart move — as a rule, it's always best to play the best competition you can — but it also leaves them susceptible to over-scheduling. Teams need to be at the .500 mark or better to remain in NCAA tourney consideration, so the Pool Bs are not only competing for the best looking numbers, but also against eligibility.
Case in point: Christopher Newport. The Captains have a 15-game schedule, meaning they need eight wins to get eligible. The slate is stacked with quality teams like Washington & Lee, Ithaca, St. Mary's and Goucher, but at first blush, I see seven likely losses. That means CNU has to sweep the rest just to stay on the committee's list on Selection Sunday.
It will certainly add an extra level of excitement in the race for the Pool B bids, but I worry that the teams with the best shot of showing well against the Pool A/C programs could be on the outside looking in. If my wish comes true, that won't happen.
|Will Division II men's tournament
expansion open the door for a tema like Tampa to make the national
© Todd Montgomery
I wish that a non-traditional power will get a crack at the Division II men's tournament
By anyone's admission, the tourney expansion wasn't meant to get any new blood into the system. If it was, a) the committee would have entertained the AQ concept, and b) the Western schools wouldn't have needed brinksmanship to force an 11th-hour move from the North (where they were originally situated) to the South (where they are now).
The expansion was simply to avoid keeping out that proverbial fifth team, which typically rotated between the North and Central regions. Having another round of games, even if it's just stacked with familiar faces, will be compelling. But if a fresh team makes the tourney, it will make the expansion that much more meaningful.
When I say fresh team, I'm not talking about Seton Hill — a team that we all expect to be there in the end — or someone of their ilk, but rather a Deep South team like Tampa or Mars Hill. Or a second Conference Carolinas squad such as Pfeiffer. Maybe even a WILA noob. Dominican? Colorado Mesa? Regardless of what program it is, if my wish comes true, Division II can proudly say that it is fostering the sport in brand new areas. Ten years from now, that might be expansion's greatest gift.
I wish the MCLA does not lose sight of its ultimate purpose
During its continued pursuit of respect in the eyes of the lacrosse establishment, I wish the MCLA does not lose sight of what its ultimate purpose is. The association and its leaders have made it clear that they hope to elevate the league to the same level as its varsity brothers in the NCAA, no matter how quixotic a quest that may be. They want more media coverage, a divisional structure that showcases its marquee teams and a fan-friendly championship.
I don't want to dissuade the MCLA from pursuing these goals because it's always positive for an organization to constantly reassess its objectives, but the setup of the league in terms of coaching, resources and geographic breadth will always be obstacles that keep non-varsity programs from sitting at the grownups table. But that doesn't mean that the MCLA can't fulfill its primary purpose: giving players who have chosen to pursue their academics at a school that doesn't offer varsity lacrosse a chance to play competitive and meaningful lacrosse.
It's not a sexy mission statement, but it's one that the MCLA can satisfy with great success. There will always be people trying to marginalize non-varsity lacrosse for whatever reason, so using time and resources attempting to convert them is an exercise in futility. If the MCLA can become comfortable in its own skin and stop worrying but about how it is perceived, the number of teams and student-athletes it sponsors will always keep them relevant in our sport. In addition, the growing amount of MCLA teams who are transitioning to all levels of the NCAA is the biggest reason why the association will remain in the forefront of the overall lacrosse consciousness regardless of what the deniers hope to accomplish.