DMA 7-22 Sports

May 11, 2010 6:00 AM

What Price a Lacrosse Championship?

ncaa-mens-lacrosse2.jpgCome Memorial Day weekend, the lacrosse world will descend on Baltimore for the finals of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championships at M&T Bank Stadium.

Imagine if the Virginia men's team, the tournament's No. 1 seed, is the one celebrating May 31 in the middle of the field and hoisting the championship trophy.

First round games start May 15 and May 16, with 14-1 Virginia hosting Mount St. Mary's Saturday evening.

Maryland-based columnist Kevin Blackistone broached a few days ago that the Cavaliers -- in light of jailed teammate George Huguely's murder arrest May 3 in the death of Yeardley Love of Virginia's women's lacrosse team -- should shut down its program for the remainder of the season, much less compete for a championship.

Here, here.

Indeed, the Virginia men's team should do the honorable thing and shut it down. What if they get to Baltimore -- Love's hometown?

Surely, some might say that Huguely's alleged homicidal actions against Love should not unfairly penalize the other 40 team members. They were not the ones who broke into Love's off-campus apartment in Charlottesville and mauled her to death.

But doesn't the men's lacrosse team and university have to answer for teammate Huguely? Did the team enable, even in some small way, his aberrant and predatory behavior? What about the drinking, the boisterous parties, the power dating, the stories now emerging about Huguely?

We know the men's lacrosse world -- just covering about a third of the country -- is a tight-knit one. What about the story that Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate on hearing the player had kissed Love. The story goes that Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia learned of the February 2009 fight, disciplined Huguely and the other player, but both played in subsequent games.

And there are more reports of Huguely confronting Love aggressively in public in the days before her death.

Then what about the report that an intoxicated Huguely threatened a female police officer in Lexington, VA in 2008 and had to be taken down with a stun gun -- all marked by a "b-word" tirade laced at the officer. The university was quick to say it did not know about the incident, but certainly teammates would have known. Somebody on the lacrosse team must have known that Huguely was off his rocker. Teammates know. They room, eat, practice, travel, work out and party together.

Yesterday, the Virginia Lacrosse Alumni Network in conjunction with the Virginia Athletics Foundation announced it established the Yeardley Reynolds Love Women's Lacrosse Endowed Scholarship to provide annually a full scholarship for a member of the women's lacrosse team to "forever honor the legacy of Yeardley Love and her contributions as a student, athlete, and friend at the University of Virginia."

A really nice gesture, but is that the price for the men's lacrosse team playing for a title?

Again, this was not some incident that happened to Yeardley Love. It was murder, only a week ago, allegedly at the hands of another athlete in the same university program.

While it would be an extraordinary concession, the Cavaliers should have packed it in, get their house in order and live to play another day. For those who say, well, look at the injustice done to the Duke lacrosse team a few years ago -- forfeiting its season over a discredited prostitute sex scandal. OK, point made, but this was murder, Yeardley Love's murder.

Too bad the lacrosse championships aren't being held this year in Philadelphia or Boston or even Timbuktu -- anywhere but Baltimore. If Virginia makes it to the final on Memorial Day Monday at M&T Bank Stadium is Baltimore's lacrosse elite going to rush downtown from Homewood and Towson with their button-down shirts, windbreakers and sun dresses to celebrate the game?

To understand that, you have to understand how lacrosse, especially prep and club lacrosse, is celebrated in Baltimore. Some surrounding Baltimore area public schools have solid programs, but everyone knows that the universe for boys and girls lacrosse is centered around private schools in a small area of north Baltimore to Towson in Baltimore County.

Love's high school, Notre Dame Prep, is ranked No. 3 in the Baltimore Sun's latest girls' weekly lacrosse poll. Counting Love, of the 24 members of the Cavaliers' women's team, six players are from Baltimore private schools in the aforementioned area -- Notre Dame Prep, Bryn Mawr School for Girls, St. Paul's School for Girls, Roland Park Country School and Maryvale Prep. Altogether, 12 of the 24 Cavalier players are from Maryland.

On the Virginia men's team, five of the players attended three Baltimore prep schools -- St. Paul's, Gilman School and Loyola Blakefield.

In one form or another, these players can only be described as being acquainted with Yeardley Love, who was a 22-year-old Cavaliers senior. Baltimore lacrosse is a tight club, mixing in high school football for the boys and field hockey for the girls. Like Love, they learn these sports at young ages on the ball fields of sports friendly north Baltimore and Baltimore County.

Yeardley Love's death is a supreme tragedy that will continue to reverberate throughout the greater sports world and the lacrosse world in Baltimore. Just what happened, and how it might have been manifested by the elite and privileged culture of lacrosse, surely will come out in Huguely's court proceedings. And you know that the weekly TV magazine shows are working on coverage that will fill the airwaves for years to come.

Too bad the Cavaliers men's lacrosse team won't take the cue: hunker down and do better, search your soul for the meaning of George Huguely, and, most of all, forsake a championship run that would end in the very place that the now tragic figure of Yeardley Love called home.

DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach M.V. Greene at

Graphic: NCAA

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