SportsProf

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The National Significance of a Relatively Small Sports Headline

About five years ago, Princeton's lacrosse coach, Bill Tierney, announced that he was leaving Tigertown to move to the University of Denver.  The lacrosse world buzzed a bit -- on the face of it, this was a curious move because Tierney had built a juggernaut at Princeton, winning 6 national championships in 22 seasons.  The East is the lacrosse hotbed; very few schools play Division I lacrosse out west.

But there were two more important subheadings.  First, understandably Tierney moved to the best program possible out west because he and his wife were empty nesters and their three grown kids were out west and they wanted to be closer.  That made perfect sense.  The second subheading had two parts -- one, that you knew that Tierney was going to Denver to bring his all to the program and two, that it only would be a matter of time before he would build a national contender and win a title.

He built a national contender pretty quickly; he just won his first national title at Denver.

The national significance -- for years the lacrosse powers that be and are were trying to give the sport more national appeal, appeal beyond the fact that Notre Dame plays the sport and that Ohio State does. Until Denver's victory, no team outside the Eastern time zone had won a national title.  (Still, there are only a handful of Division 1 lacrosse teams outside the east coast).  A parallel could be women's basketball, where, for the longest time until perhaps the late 1970's and the early 80's, the national, big state universities had also-ran teams and the likes of Immaculata and Delta State dominated.  Well, if you argue that Denver's win might open the eyes of the bigger schools to go bigger time in lacrosse, you might see the likes of Stanford and USC and other big schools starting programs (and figuring out the balance within their athletic programs under Title IX).  And that could lead to many more schools playing Division 1 lacrosse -- in all time zones.

So, a veteran coach moved cross country to be closer to his grown children.  He builds a better program.  He wins a national title.

And now people care about the sport far beyond the East.  Denver's 2015 national title could be a defining moment for collegiate lacrosse.

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