The Inner Harbor and the home of the Ravens will be awash with as many as 40,000 lacrosse fans this weekend. The men who brought the NCAA championships to M&T Bank Stadium are lacrosse parents, in the sports business or both, with one exception.
Sandy Jordan, a 55-year-old investment manager, is described as the catalyst behind lax4baltimore, the local organizing committee, and one of the biggest college sports events ever in town.
"Without any benefit to him, Sandy had the ability and the dream to pull this off," said Tony Seaman, the coach at Towson University.
"Whoever heard of four colleges and a professional sports outfit that had nothing to do with the sport sponsoring anything together and getting along? He put in hours and hours to bring us together. I shake his hand every time I see him."
Jordan wasn't the first person to envision lacrosse's signature event in Baltimore, which is home to US Lacrosse, the sport's national governing body; its Hall of Fame, and Johns Hopkins University, its most storied college team. He jump-started an effort, however, that is unique to the NCAA on two fronts.
The NCAA separates its members into three divisions, based on level of emphasis. While champions in basketball and other sports are crowned at locations as varied as domed NFL stadiums and small, campus arenas, all three men's lacrosse titles will be decided at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Division I semifinals will be played today, with the winners advancing to Monday's championship game. Finals in Division II and III will be played tomorrow.
Typically, a lone college or conference sponsors an NCAA championship. Hopkins, Loyola, Towson and UMBC are co-sponsors. They put up a $500,000 guarantee to rent the stadium and pay the Maryland Stadium Authority for its manpower, and another $600,000 for expenses ranging from advertising to transportation.
After the NCAA takes 75 percent of the net proceeds, those six parties will split the remaining profit.
Attendance records were set in 1995 and '97, when the Division I semifinals drew slightly more than 30,000 to the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium.
More than 32,000 tickets had already been sold by yesterday morning. Rain could affect the walk-up crowd, but the worst-case scenario for the sponsoring colleges had them pocketing at least $40,000 apiece.
Athletic directors from the four colleges say they're not in it for the money. Jordan definitely isn't. He spent countless hours of his spare time to bring the NCAA championships to his adopted hometown.
Growing up in Rochester, N.Y., Jordan played lacrosse informally, as he went to a high school that didn't sponsor the sport. He went to Hopkins as an undergraduate, became a fan and went to the championship weekend with friends even when the Blue Jays weren't involved. In 2000, for the seventh time in eight years, he spent Memorial Day weekend at Byrd Stadium.
"The people at Byrd had done a great job, but the event was getting stagnant," Jordan said. "It drew the hard core, like me, but not the casual fan. Basketball's Final Four creates a certain level of excitement; the same thing with football bowl games.
"I thought the lacrosse championships could become a party like those, turn a minor college sport into a major event."
Jordan was an outsider, and he needed a starting point.
In the summer of 2000, he made a cold call to Rick Slosson, the executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority who has a son, Scott, who's a freshman on the Maryland team. Slosson was exploring the feasibility of a bid to bring the event to M&T Bank Stadium, which had hundreds of open dates to fill beyond the Ravens' schedule.
The next step was to gauge interest at the colleges, none of which has the venue or front office to stage the event by itself.
Jordan started at Loyola. In 1999, when athletic director Joe Boylan was chairman of the NCAA men's lacrosse committee, Boylan publicly floated the idea of the championships coming to the Ravens' stadium.
Two years earlier, he and Dave Cottle, then the Greyhounds' coach and now in charge of the Terps, had moved Loyola's regular-season game against Syracuse to Memorial Stadium.
UMBC's Charlie Brown, the dean of the state's athletic directors, had experience with the myriad rules and regulations of conducting NCAA championships from 1995, when the Retrievers were host to a sub-regional of the men's basketball tournament at what was then known as the Baltimore Arena.
Seaman, the Towson coach, had been talking up the event's potential since the 1980s. Wayne Edwards, his athletic director, talked of the value of getting his college's name on ESPN, but there was skepticism among four schools that share little but locale and lacrosse.
"I didn't even know Sandy until he called three years ago," Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder said. "I took the phone away from my ear and said, `No way,' because we're four different types of schools. Eventually, it made sense."