Daily Archives: December 6, 2010

Lacrosse In The 1970’s: Cornell Men’s Lacrosse Defeated Maryland 16-13 In Overtime Thriller To Win 1976 NCAA Lacrosse National Championship (Sports Illustrated June 07, 1976)

Cornell came from far behind to win a thriller of an NCAA final.

On the eve of Saturday’s NCAA lacrosse championship at Brown University, Cliff Stevenson, the host school’s lacrosse coach, sat in the stands in Brown Stadium watching the undefeated finalists, Maryland and Cornell, work out. Less than two weeks before, Stevenson’s squad had played them back to back. “This could be the greatest lacrosse game of all time,” he said. “I’ve been coaching 26 years and these are the two best teams I’ve ever seen.”

Stevenson was right on the button. For dramatics this year’s championship was unsurpassed. Before a noisy crowd of 11,954 the game boiled to a 12-12 tie and went into overtime, with Cornell playing under protest. The disputed play had allowed Maryland to draw even with only one second remaining in regulation time, but ultimately the protest was academic. Outhustling and outchecking the Terps, Cornell pulled away to a 16-13 win, adding a second NCAA crown to the one it had captured in the tournament’s first year.

The tournament was started in 1971 to help promote the game, and over the years it has produced enough upsets, controversies, records and, yes, money to make it a success. This year, for the first time, the tournament drew national TV exposure. ABC‘s Wide World of Sports was there in Providence, proof positive for aficionados, who can be a little tiresome on the subject of the growth of lacrosse. In truth, the sport’s stature was better summed up by a short conversation that took place between two ABC technicians immediately after they had been briefed on some fundamentals of the game—four quarters, goals count one point, play starts with something called a faceoff, which takes place at midfield.

“Is this the first time lacrosse has been on national television?” asked one.

“Yep,” answered the second. “We could make or break the sport.” If lacrosse fails to survive ABC‘s treatment of it, it can at least claim to have exited on a glorious note. This was the first time in tournament history that the championship game matched undefeated teams. More important, the finalists had reached their appointment with destiny, or at least with the American Broadcasting Company, by trampling all over their tournament opponents. Maryland had scored in the first 14 seconds of its opener with Brown and built up a 9-0 lead on the way to an easy 17-8 win. But almost before the Terrapins could finish flexing their muscles, word arrived from Cornell that the Big Red had demolished its opening-round foe, Washington and Lee, 14-0. In lacrosse, shutouts occur about as often as visitations from ABC.

Maryland went right back to work proving that it deserved to be the No. 1 seed by rolling up an 11-1 lead over fourth-ranked Navy and then coasting to a 22-11 win. The 22 goals were a tournament record. Then news came from Cornell that the Big Red had built up its own 11-1 lead, over third-ranked Johns Hopkins, before winning 13-5.

Nor had the regular season offered much of a challenge for either team. Cornell’s average margin of victory was 11 goals, Maryland‘s was nine. True, the Terps had been taken into overtime by Atlantic Coast Conference opponents North Carolina and Virginia, but in those overtime periods Maryland had outshot them 26-0. Against Virginia, the Terrapins poured in nine goals in less than five minutes.

Maryland was so explosive offensively this year that 37 times it scored within 25 seconds after a faceoff. Cornell players referred to the Terrapins‘ extra-man offense as the “Guns of Navarone.” The Terps’ coach, Bud Beardmore, was a high-scoring midfielder at Maryland and he had built his offense there around a midfield starring a cast of thousands. In lacrosse, midfielders play for short periods of time and frequently change on the fly the way lines do in ice hockey. Depth is crucial, and Maryland was so well manned that Roger Tuck, a Terrapin All-America midfielder, was serious when he said, “A really big part of our game plan is simply to run the opposing midfield into the ground.”

So deep was Maryland, in fact, that although it was the highest scoring team in the nation, none of its players finished in the top 12 in goals, assists or points. In all, 25 different Terps scored this season, 16 of them midfielders.

Despite incessant talk about the quality of Maryland‘s depth, no one lumped Frank Urso with the rest of the midfield. Last Saturday was Urso‘s final game, and he is likely to be remembered as the best collegiate player ever. In his career at Maryland he led the Terps to the NCAA finals in all four years and made first-team All-America every season. His overtime goal won the 1973 NCAA title for Maryland, and his record-tying five goals in last year’s championship game gave the Terps their second NCAA title. As a sophomore he was named Midfielder of the Year. As a junior he was named Player of the Year. As a senior he was so good no one could think of a description worthy of the man.

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1091189/index.htm#ixzz17FpEkAN7

Lacrosse “At The Crossroads”: NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Adopted A “No-Faceoff” Rule In 1979 To Shorten The Game And Increase Appeal To Network Television But Succeeded Only In Hurting The “Creator’s Game”

To the uninitiated, a lacrosse faceoff gives the appearance of a crude physical battle—two opposing players, their sticks pressed together at ground level, grunting and groaning over a ball that has been placed between their nets. To the aficionado, on the other hand, the faceoff is an art form complete with its own esoterica—mysterious things such as the rake and the clamp.

Traditionally, the faceoff puts the ball back in play following each goal and at the start of each quarter. But last May, in a move that caught the lacrosse world with its sticks down, the NCAA rules committee voted to eliminate faceoffs after goals. The team scored upon would simply be given the ball. No more pushing or shoving required. What’s more, the team would get the ball not near its own goal, but right out there at midfield where it could launch an all-out attack on the opponent’s goal. The main idea was to shorten the overall time it takes to play a game.

The Faceoff represents the essence of conflict at the heart of the Creator's Game. Photo by LaxBuzz.

How has this new rule been received? Well, at the moment it couldn’t win a popularity contest against radioactive fallout. Club teams, which accommodate lacrosse players after their college days, and high schools have refused to adopt it. College coaches evidenced their feelings in December by pleading with the NCAA committee to revoke the rule change. The committee refused.

Now the fans have spoken. Last Saturday afternoon in Baltimore, while undefeated and No. 1-ranked Johns Hopkins was rolling to a 13-8 win over previously unbeaten Virginia, a small contingent of Hopkins fans decided it was time to make a comment. After each Hopkins score the greater part of the partisan crowd would count off the number of Blue Jay goals, “One…two…three…four…” and greedily add, “We want more.” At that point the smaller group would quickly holler, “Faceoffs.”

“We’ve taken away the flow of lacrosse, the passing on the run, which was the good thing about the sport,” says Hopkins Coach Henry Ciccarone.

While the ruling seems to have succeeded in shortening the games, it has not speeded up their pace. With the no-faceoff rule automatically putting one team on offense after every goal, coaches are increasingly substituting defensive or offensive specialists for the old-style midfielders who had been capable of playing both ends of the field. Those midfielders dictated a fast-paced game by forcing turnovers on defense and then executing fast breaks on offense.

“The lacrosse faceoff was unique,” says Maryland Coach Bud Beardmore. He agrees with Cornell Coach Richie Moran, who says, “A good faceoff man could start fast breaks, and fast breaks are the beauty of the game.” Last year Maryland scored 47 times within 25 seconds of a faceoff. That brings up another coaching complaint. Without a chance to get the ball right back on a faceoff, how can a team trailing by a few goals hope to come back late in a game?

An example of the way the new rule has altered play arose late in the first quarter last Saturday. Cavalier Goalie Brian Gregory made a good save, but instead of looking for a fast break he simply held the ball while Virginia substituted offensive specialists. When they were finally in place, it took the Cavaliers just a few seconds and four quick passes to move the ball the length of the field and score. It was a beautiful display of passing, but only for those in the crowd who hadn’t wandered off for a hot dog while Gregory was stalling.

Other coaches hasten to point out the strategic importance of the faceoff. On the day after the NCAA decision was announced last May, Blue Jay freshman Ned Radebaugh controlled 20 of 22 faceoffs to lead Hopkins to a 13-8 upset of Cornell in the national championship. Facing off was all Radebaugh did that day.

In the case of the faceoff, absence indeed seems to have made the heart grow fonder. The truth is that the faceoff disappeared because of the coaches, not in spite of them. The NCAA committee originally acted on the recommendation of the rules and equipment committee of the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association. The USILA group had developed its recommendations from responses to questionnaires sent to coaches last spring. In recent years, games had been dragging on for about 2� hours. Coaches were asked if they wanted to do away with the faceoff and, if so, where did they want to put the ball into play?

Of the total number queried, 77% responded, and 62% of those, or approximately 48% of the total, recommended doing away with the faceoff. There was no clear-cut majority on the subject of where to put the ball in play, although the area behind the goal got the most votes and midfield the fewest. In a spirit of compromise, the USILA committee recommended the restraining line. The NCAA committee, fearing that weaker teams might not be able to clear the ball out of the shadow of their own goal, opted for midfield. “If the people who voted against the faceoff had known where the ball was going to be placed, most of them wouldn’t have voted the way they did,” says Beardmore.

Virginia Coach Jim Adams, who was chairman of the NCAA committee, hopes that speeding up the game will make lacrosse “more packageable for TV.” But television may be a pipe dream. A planned local telecast of last Saturday’s Hopkins-Virginia game was canceled; the problem was not lack of faceoff but lack of television interest in the game.

The day after the Blue Jays’ win, the USILA rules and equipment committee gathered at Johns Hopkins to plan the questionnaire it will send out this year concerning rules changes for 1980. Many lacrosse observers are already predicting that the results of that poll will mandate the return of the faceoff. Whatever the outcome, the faceoff fiasco has guaranteed one positive step. “In the past when the USILA questionnaire was sent out, no one paid much attention to it,” Ciccarone said last week. “You can bet that won’t be the case this year.”

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1094829/2/index.htm#ixzz17HytLOzn