Final 4 to return here in '07

College lacrosse

September 22, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun reporter

In the end, the NCAA decided to recognize a familiar, successful stage for the best teams in men's lacrosse, and to take the sport's main event into another unexplored region.

Last night, as expected, the NCAA announced its men's lacrosse championships would return to Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium in 2007 before moving to New England for the first time in 2008, when the annual Memorial Day weekend games will be played at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.

Jon Hind, the chairman of the men's lacrosse committee, said there were two reasons the NCAA deviated from its recent practice of committing to one city for two-year blocks.

It wants to keep the sport's biggest weekend connected to a city that not only has deep lacrosse roots, but also drew record crowds to the Ravens' home in 2003 and 2004 -- the first years the Division I final four was not held on a college campus.

And, as it did by sending the championships for the first time to Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for a two-year stay that concludes next May, the NCAA wants to continue exposing the game to new markets.

Hind said Baltimore will always be in the final four picture.

"When you put everything together, with the schools that are hosting the event (Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Towson, UMBC), combined with the Ravens and all they've done with that stadium, and the fans and the spirit of lacrosse there, it's a no-brainer," Hind said. "On the other hand, the enthusiasm that Boston had in putting together their bid was hard to ignore."

Harvard will be the host school in 2008, and the presentation it made with the New England Patriots -- who play at Gillette Stadium -- convinced NCAA director of championships John Williams that any perceived logistical problems could be overcome.

Foxboro is about 30 miles from Boston and lacks enough hotels to suit the NCAA. But with non-stop, free train service on game days from downtown Boston to Gillette Stadium, Williams said fans will be able to get to and from the games from the city.

"It would have been nice to get it for more than one year when we were asked to submit a bid for two, but it's great for lacrosse," Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan said. "I would hope the NCAA somewhere along the line would look at Baltimore as they look at Indianapolis or San Antonio with men's basketball (Final Four). Put us in a rotation."

The NCAA also announced quarterfinal sites for the next two years. In 2006, Stony Brook will host in the north, while south games will be at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium. In 2007, Princeton (north) and Navy (south) will host.

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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