Officials expect the fans even with no Md. schools

May 23, 1994|By Jamison Hensley and Mike Preston

For the second time in the 24-year history of the Division I men's lacrosse tournament, it began with five Maryland schools in its field. However, more than one week after the tournament started, no Maryland school remains for the Final Four -- also for the second time in tournament history.

Despite the elimination of state schools from the Final Four at Byrd Stadium in College Park, officials believe attendance will not suffer.

"I don't think it will affect it at all," said Gothard Lane, Maryland assistant athletic director. "It's been a success through the last couple of years at different places, and we still expect a crowd of 20,000. We're in the heartland of lacrosse within five hours of every national power. This is a natural championship site."

The ideal semifinalists for a big draw in College Park would have been area schools Johns Hopkins and Loyola, Syracuse for its style and tradition and Virginia with 19 of its 41 players from the state. But only Syracuse and Virginia survived, along with Ivy League schools Princeton and Brown.

The other Final Four with no Maryland representative was 1988, when Syracuse, Cornell, Virginia and Penn made the semifinals. The championship game between New York rivals Syracuse and Cornell drew 20,148 to the Carrier Dome.

When Byrd Stadium set the all-time attendance mark of more than 43,000 for the national semifinals and championship game in 1989, it featured Maryland, Hopkins, Syracuse and North Carolina. That year showcased Syracuse's Paul and Gary Gait and the rivalry of then-Hopkins coach Don Zimmerman and the Orangemen's Roy Simmons Jr., coaches who had combined to win five of the previous six titles.

Although this year's tournament won't have the Gait brothers or two hometown schools, Lane believes the interest in the sport will bring fans.

The Final Four at Piscataway, N.J., in 1990 and at Philadelphia in 1992 averaged more than 13,000 a game with no local teams. Even the advance ticket sales for this year's tournament are about 1,500 more than last year's totals at this point.

"Lacrosse is such an event now," Lane said. "Even though we didn't have the University of Maryland make a Final Four appearance last year, we still broke records. It would have been great to have Hopkins, Maryland, Loyola and Towson in the Final Four, but I think we are past the era where one team has to make the tournament. I think we have very knowledgeable lacrosse fans. They just want to see the best."

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