Starting at square one, coach earns spurs hard way

Stephenson doing it all getting Binghamton going

Men's notebook

April 17, 2002|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Ed Stephenson didn't envision becoming a college lacrosse coach when he first tried the sport as a sophomore at Dulaney High in 1983. He just wanted to better his chances to play football at Notre Dame.

"My mom told me I had to get a job or play a sport," Stephenson said. "Glen Miles, the Dulaney football coach, told me that if I played lacrosse, I would stay in shape. I had never picked up a stick."

Instead of playing outside linebacker for the Fighting Irish, Stephenson became a third-team All-American defenseman for Towson State in 1989, when the Tigers made their first appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament.

He was an assistant for three years at Gilman, three at Towson State and five at UMBC before he sought a change of scenery.

At the end of his first season at Hobart, the head coach was fired, which is how Stephenson came to be looking for a new job last summer. He took the most intriguing offer, starting a program from scratch at Binghamton, one of the jewels of the extensive State University of New York system.

Stephenson was supposed to gradually get the Bearcats' men's and women's programs started, but that timetable accelerated when Binghamton joined the America East conference and decided to play at the NCAA level this spring.

Before a women's coach was hired in January, Stephenson ran both teams.

He ordered uniforms and equipment and enlisted club holdovers to recruit anyone on campus with high school experience. The Bearcats made their NCAA debut March 9, when they lost to Siena, 14-6. On March 30, they scored an 8-7 win over a Boston College team that was disbanding.

For every Division I college that upgrades its commitment to men's lacrosse, it seems as if another cites budgetary concerns and drops the sport.

"Division I remains stagnant, while the high school game is booming," Stephenson said. "There are a lot of players out there, and I think we'll be competitive quickly.

"When I was at Towson and UMBC, I always liked the role of the underdog. I never played lacrosse until I was in the 10th grade, and when I go recruiting I'm looking for the same kind of high school player I was. I think I've got a good eye for spotting kids with potential."

Stephenson can relate to the lone Marylander in his first freshman class. Joe Conner is an attackman at Frederick County's Urbana High, where he was better known as the quarterback for the state's premier public school football program.

Fairfield factor

Next week, the NCAA's presidents commission is expected to rubber-stamp a proposal to expand the Division I tournament from 12 to 16 teams.

The number of at-large bids will swell to nine. That's more breathing room than the six that will get in when this season's field is announced May 5, but could that group of powers that be dwindle to only five?

Virginia assistant Marc Van Arsdale scrutinized the NCAA handbook and stopped on page 11, which includes this requirement of the 2002 field: "One team will be selected from each of the three geographical regions: Northeast, Southeast and West."

The champion of the Great Western Lacrosse League is listed as one of the six automatic qualifiers. What happens if Fairfield, of Connecticut, wins at Notre Dame Sunday and goes on to claim its first GWLL title?

It's the only member that isn't in the West, and a strict interpretation of the NCAA handbook says that one of the five teams in that region, like Notre Dame or Ohio State, must be in the tournament, which would mean one less true at-large team.

Player of the Week

Tim McGinnis, Gettysburg.

The junior goalie out of Loyola High had a career-high 22 saves as the No. 2 Bullets scored a 12-8 victory over No. 7 Salisbury in a big Division III game that matched the leaders of the Centennial and Capital conferences, respectively. McGinnis, whose brother, Pat, starred for Maryland, also had 16 saves in a 20-5 win over Western Maryland.

Game of the Week

No. 5 Cornell at No. 8 Princeton, Saturday, noon.

The Big Red has reeled off nine straight wins since a season-opening loss to Georgetown. It's the only unbeaten in the Ivy League, where the Tigers had a seven-year, 37-game win streak stopped by Yale March 30. Princeton must win to make the NCAA tournament a 13th straight year.

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