Links 5/23

Inside Lacrosse is reporting that Richie Meade will be named as the first head coach of the new lacrosse program at Furman. It’ll be weird seeing him on another college sideline, but we all knew it would happen at some point. Good for him, and good for Furman.

Navy won the Patriot League Presidents’ Cup for the 2011-2012 academic year. It’s the first time Navy has won. Bucknell had won the last six, with the Mids finishing second in five of those years. Navy doesn’t play Patriot League football, field hockey, or softball, and only recently added women’s lacrosse and women’s tennis. Both of those programs have become very successful very quickly, and their rise (along with the rise of women’s programs in general) helped to finally push Navy over the top. I’ve never worried much about the Presidents’ Cup, but it’s a nice to get a bit of affirmation for a great year by the athletic department.

— Speaking of the rise of women’s lacrosse, Cindy Timchal shall now be addressed as Hall of Famer Cindy Timchal.

Not all the news is good. As the kids say, “smh.” Sperry had dropped on the depth chart this spring thanks to the rise of Jonathan Wev, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have fought back. At the very least he would’ve provided experienced depth for a defense that had none last year. I hate the offseason.

— On to the conference expansion mess… The headline here says “Texas AD not for expanding,” but that’s not really the impression I get from reading the article. The way I read it, DeLoss Dodds is just trying to remain noncommittal, either for the sake of not tipping his hand or just not wanting to set off a firestorm of rumors based on his comments. Like this. I do believe that Big 12 expansion is far from a given, though, especially after their recent monster television deal. Would Florida State and Clemson really add that much value? Would a championship game make enough money to offset splitting television revenue by two (or more) additional teams? Maybe, but I don’t know if that’s a certainty. Let’s hope not.

— The Big East’s league meetings are wrapping up today, but there is plenty to talk about already through days 1 & 2:

  • The most interesting (and important) bit is that NBC and Fox both gave presentations on why the Big East is appealing to them. I don’t know what was contained in those presentations (or where that lovely $2 billion number came from), but I suspect that it pretty much sounded like the last few paragraphs of this. I’m telling you, this conference has the potential to make money if it can just stay together.
  • Speaking of which, one report is saying that “multiple sources” expect Air Force or BYU to join along with Navy in 2015. Well, OK. I don’t know if anyone’s “expectations” are really worth mentioning, since these stories change by the day. I’m going to need to see a lot more smoke before I believe there’s a fire there. If we’re just going to speak hypothetically, then either one of them would be a good addition. Air Force would be better for Navy, although BYU would be better for the league. The best-case scenario would be to add both of them plus Army, but don’t hold your breath. Of the two, BYU might (somewhat surprisingly) be the most likely since they are facing most of the same challenges as an independent that Navy had. I was a big fan of BYU’s independence (still am, actually), but a lot has changed even in the short time that they made that decision. I’m sure that BYU is at least keeping their options open. As for Air Force, I get the feeling that they’re content with attempting to rule the tattered remnants of the Mountain West. A Gazette column calling them “cowardly” is surely on the way.
  • Divisional alignment possibilities were also discussed, although no decision was made. I had always assumed that it would be an east-west split, given that Boise State and San Diego State were both adamant about having a western partner for the conference. I still think it makes the most sense, although I’m also sure that neither Louisville nor Cincinnati get giddy over the thought of joining a western division. All I want is for Navy to be in the same division as UCF so we can create a rivalry trophy out of George O’Leary’s severed head on a stick.
  • The championship game for the conference will be played on-campus instead of at a neutral site. GOOD.

Navy Lacrosse vs. Lehigh

I went to the Navy vs. Lehigh lacrosse game on Friday night along with around 2,200 of my closest friends. That’s about 500 more people than attended the Navy vs. Holy Cross game last weekend, despite a cold, wet night on a day the temperatures never seemed to break out of the 40’s. And by the end of the evening it was the Lehigh fans that were cheering the loudest as their Mountain Hawks closed out a 9-4 victory over the Midshipmen.

It was a tale of one quarter going well for the Mids followed by three quarters of Lehigh dominance. One could say it was a game of missed opportunities for Navy, but that really just applies to the first 20 minutes. During that time, Navy built a 4-1 lead, but they also had a number of quality looks that missed and a few turnovers after stall warnings were called. Even if they converted all those chances, it still would have been difficult to pull out a victory given their performance over the final three quarters.

To put it plainly, Lehigh dominated the final 45 minutes. Their defense showed why it is ranked #1 in the country, holding Navy to just 7 shots in the 2nd half and not allowing a goal after the 12-minute mark in the 2nd quarter. Wickham had some nice saves, but as I tweeted during the game, you’re not going to win many games when you’re allowing multiple goals from 10+ yards out (Lehigh had at least 3 of those by my count). Combine that with a couple of second-chance goals by the Mountain Hawks off of juicy rebounds, and you’ve dug yourself a deep hole.

Ok, so enough about the nuts and bolts of the game. There are a couple of more meta things I’d like to address. The first is the stall warning issue. There are those who say college lacrosse needs a shot clock. To them, I say balderdash. Well, balderdash to a degree. Tonight exemplified what is wrong with the stall warning in college lacrosse – it’s purely subjective. There were times where Navy was given stall warnings after 60 or so seconds of possession on offense. And there was a time where Lehigh held the ball for over two minutes before they were given a stall. This creates an unequal situation for teams to deal with and leaves players unable to tell what they need to do to stay off the stall. The solution I see is not a shot clock, but a stall clock.

My proposal, had I a voice to use, would be a 45-second (not married to that number) stall clock. This would start the moment a team touched the ball inside the offensive box. If the team takes a shot before the clock expires, it automatically resets. After it expires, a stall warning is issued and the possession proceeds as it does under today’s rule. But you know how long you have before the stall comes into play every single time. A shot clock would suggest a turnover if the ball is not shot, and while that may be OK for the few elite players that make up the pro teams, it’s not a good idea for college. Just like the Princeton and other slow-moving offenses help equalize games in college basketball, a good controlling offense that can take the air out of the ball can help level the lacrosse playing field. Teams need to be allowed to possess for extended periods of time – refs don’t need to be given control over a game that is purely based on their opinion. Opinion is about as opposite from a rule as you can get. It’s time to end this nonsense.

And while we’re addressing delays in the game, can we please do something about mass midfield substitutions? There were times tonight where teams spent nearly a minute switching players in and out as they transitioned from defense to offense. Maybe this is my first crotchety old man rant, but what ever happened to middies who can play both ways? I understand specialization, but when we spend over half an offensive possession just making sure we’re getting the right guys on the field, it loses something. Imagine having a middie who plays both ways as you transition to defense. Now the offense has to go a man down for a few seconds just to get their switch in and expose themselves to a double team, or they leave their non-offensive mid on the field and have to deal with a less than ideal situation. When I played, we ran lines much like hockey teams do. You’d do subs on horns from balls going out or after goals. Not every time the ball crossed midfield. Then again, maybe it’s just me that’s annoyed by this.

Finally, I’m going to give what some may call a sour grapes moment, but I was tweeting about it before we started losing. Lehigh sent their entire team, even the goalie, to the Navy goal for high fives every time they scored. I thought it was a low rent move, and one that caused delays in faceoffs. Many times Navy was set and ready to go while Lehigh was walking back to their defensive positions. Just something that I noted early on and hoped would be greeted by a little more wood being laid on hits. But in the end, the Navy team looked like it just wanted to get out of there after failing to back up such a promising 1st quarter. Such is life – onwards and upwards to Maryland on Friday at College Park.