NCAA Killing The Golden Lacrosse Egg?

Golden-Egg-Lacrosse-ROHThis weekend M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore is hosting the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Finals.

The semi-finals are today, with #1 ranked Duke taking on #5 Denver at 1:00 PM followed by No. 7 Maryland versus No. 6 Notre Dame at 3:30 PM. At stake is a spot in the Championship game on Monday.

There is an on-going remarkable sideline to the Duke team – a team that has come all the way back from the “Duke lacrosse scandal lie.

Come Monday, Duke’s Casey Carroll hopes to play the game he loves while saluting the sacrifices he and others have made for their country. When better than Memorial Day

for a former Army Ranger to end his college lacrosse career in the NCAA championship game?

“That [scenario] would be great for so many reasons — but, of course, it’s one game at a time,” said Carroll, 29, a starting defenseman for the top-seeded Blue Devils, who play No. 5 Denver in the Division I semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. At 3:30, No. 7 Maryland plays No. 6 Notre Dame. The winners advance to Monday’s title game at 1 p.m.

Perhaps no one in this year’s Final Four would fit better on Monday’s stage than Carroll. The Baldwin, N.Y., native graduated in 2007, a first-team All-American with one year of eligibility remaining. Instead, he joined the Army and served four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, an elite volunteer combat unit, before returning to Duke for graduate school and one last fling at lacrosse. He prepared to come back for last season, but a torn anterior cruciate ligament pushed back his return to 2014.

Forget Carroll’s age — he’s 10 years older than some teammates — or the fact that he hadn’t played in 2,447 days. He started Duke’s opener, a 16-10 win over Jacksonville, and earned honors as Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Week.


Carroll wasn’t the first Duke lacrosse player to soldier up. The framed No. 10 jersey worn by Jimmy Regan hangs outside the team’s locker room in honor of the midfielder-turned-Army Ranger who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007.

Though he never met Regan, Carroll was spurred by his death to follow suit. He’d thought about enlisting ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

(Take the time to read the entire article.)

(The women’s championship is also being played this weekend in the Baltimore area. On Friday, the Maryland women beat Northwestern 9-6 setting up a Sunday final against the women from Syracuse who sent Virginia by a score of 16-8. The women are playing at Towson University, just north of the city.)

We are fans of the sport of lacrosse (often called the fastest sport on grass) and are stoked to see both Maryland teams doing great. After tomorrow, it is possible the Terps could have both lacrosse teams in the finals.

As we have often said, ….. “Fear the Turtle.”

This is a heady time for lovers of the sport of lacrosse. It has seen unprecedented growth and is no longer just a mid-Atlantic / north-eastern sport. Club teams are everywhere, feeding a growing number of high schools and colleges playing lacrosse. Growing up, we can remember watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports to even catch a glimpse of the championship game which was always broadcast three or four weeks after the game was played. Now, ESPN carries all of the men’s tournament – every game – live.

However, according to an article in the Baltimore Sun, there are some storm clouds on the horizon.

NCAA hoping for larger crowds as men’s lacrosse Final Four returns to Baltimore

On Memorial Day 2007, the possibilities for lacrosse seemed limitless.

A record 123,225 fans had flocked to M&T Bank Stadium that weekend to watch the NCAA men’s championships, and they were rewarded with a thrilling final between local favorite Johns Hopkins and perennial power Duke.

The three-day event had drawn similar crowds the year before in Philadelphia and would again the next year in Foxborough, Mass. Youth participation was skyrocketing in states that had barely known the game 20 years earlier. Baltimore stood at the center of an exhilarating moment for a sport it had long nurtured like a favorite son.

Seven years later, the outlook is less brilliant as the city prepares to host the NCAA men’s Final Four for the first time since 2011. The women’s Final Four is also returning and will be played at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, with the semifinals Friday and the final Sunday night.

Lacrosse is still spreading geographically, as evidenced by the presence of Notre Dame and Denver in Saturday’s semifinals. Overall participation is up 42 percent from five years ago, according to a US Lacrosse survey.

Yet attendance at the sport’s signature event has declined each year since 2007, dropping to 79,179 in Philadelphia last year. Baltimore, the city that has traditionally drawn the largest crowds, won’t host the championships again until at least 2017. And future hosting bids could be imperiled by possible scheduling conflicts with the Orioles.

“The sport is still growing exponentially,” says Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, whose team was eliminated from this year’s tournament by Duke. “But maybe our marquee event needs to be looked at to see if it’s time for some changes.”

As the sport has grown in popularity, the ticket prices for the finals have skyrocketed as well.

“I don’t think it’s any one thing,” US Lacrosse president Steve Stenersen says of the declining crowds. “But I’m not sure we’re going to see the attendance approach what it was in the mid-2000s any time soon. We might be seeing a little bit of a market correction.”

Stenersen — whose Baltimore-based organization serves as the sport’s governing body — paints a picture of an overcommitted lacrosse parent deciding whether to spend hundreds of dollars and brave Memorial Day traffic to attend the event. “The quality of the television coverage is excellent now,” he says. “So maybe you just stay at home, mow the lawn and turn it on in the afternoon.”

[Hopkins University head coach Dave] Pietramala also mentions ticket prices as a possible concern. The cheapest all-weekend tickets are $79, and a parking pass is $55, meaning the cost for a family of four could approach $400 before food and lodging even come into play.

We went looking for tickets to the three games. For Saturday, the cheapest tickets available are some end zone tickets at $58.75. The few remaining mezzanine tickets are selling for $100.35 and all prices are before Ticketmaster adds their service fee.

Monday is not a whole lot better. Remaining tickets are going for $30.00 to $85.00.

In short, what in the aitch ee double ell(crosse) sticks is the NCAA thinking?

With the sport growing as fast as it is, the only way the stadium is not full is because the NCAA and it’s partners want a boatload of money for the event.

With half of the schools playing within easy driving distance and having rabid fans (Duke and Maryland,) there is no way that stadium is not rocking unless, we repeat, the NCAA and it’s partners want a boatload of money for the event.

Is the NCAA trying to kill the goose that is laying golden lacrosse balls? Don’t they want the stadium full and rockin’ on every shot, every goal, every face-off, every hit? Wouldn’t that help expand the sport even more?

Nah. It really seems that the NCAA is looking for the quick buck rather than the long term goal of expansion.

Oh well.

On Sunday, we are going to be rooting for the Lady Terps to win.

Today, we will be rooting for former Ranger Casey Carroll to make it to the championship game where he can play our beloved Terps.

We want him to lose on Monday against the Terps, but we are biased.

Fear the Turtle.

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