By MATTHEW FUTTERMAN
Hank Crone is the grandson of a major leaguer and the son of one of the top scouts for the Detroit Tigers. Growing up in north Texas, one of the world's great breeding grounds for baseball talent, there was no question he'd play the family game.
But after a few seasons, the athletically gifted 13-year-old said he found himself absent-mindedly kicking the outfield grass during travel-team games. The problem: he was bored. "I like baseball," he said, "but it's just too slow for me."
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By MATTHEW FUTTERMAN
Ann Arbor -- To understand just what John Paul's talking about, you first have to listen to him talk about the good ol' days, back when he played college lacrosse at Michigan.
It was a club sport more than two decades ago, as it is now. But the program then was nothing like the one Paul, in his 14th season as the Wolverines' hugely successful coach, has poised to make another quantum leap in short order.
A long-awaited decision to elevate lacrosse to varsity status at the university — once a pipe dream — now seems certain, with the full support of athletic director David Brandon.
And although Brandon and Paul insist it's too early to celebrate, with necessary financial commitments yet to be secured, an announcement could come next month.
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It's been thumping just beneath the floorboards of the Michigan athletic department for nearly a year now. It's a rhythmic cadence that must have Wolverine men's lacrosse coaches, players, fans and boosters holding their hands over their ears trying to silence the pounding.
Var-si-ty. Var-si-ty. Var-si-ty.
We've reached the point where if and when the university announces the move to the NCAA Division I ranks, it will be the most anti-climactic news in the history of the sport.
The concept of Michigan ditching its MCLA roots to go varsity has been around for years. It was all the way back in November 2007 when Wolverine coach John Paul planted the seed for the move.
"Whether it's three years from now or 15 years from now, Division I lacrosse at Michigan is inevitable," Paul told a reporter from The Michigan Daily. "The way the sport continues to grow, and all of the selling points that we have for it, it's going to happen."
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While no one would want to admit it lacrosse fans can't be too surprised that Presbyterian College has decided they will drop their Men's Lacrosse program. Presby lacrosse has always been in a tough situation. In 2006, shortly after the then Division II school began varsity Men's Lacrosse, the university announced it would transition to Division I. Presbyterian's administration obviously had ambitious dreams for their athletic department and transitioning to Division I they felt was an important next step. But what to do with that new Men's Lacrosse program? Men's Lacrosse was probably a great idea when they were a Division II tuition based athletic department, but where did the sport fit in the Division I revenue based model? Well it didn't and especially not in Clinton, SC. However, one would assume the predicament that PC faced at the time was how do you consider cutting a sport you just added? That would look really bad. So PC moved forward elevating Men's Lacrosse with all of their other sports figuring they'd give this Division I lacrosse thing a shot. Well it didn't work out too well. With no conference, little university support, and only the occasional win here and there, Presby found little success in the world of Division 1 Men's Lacrosse. Ironically, this past fall the NCAA failed to approve PC's Division I transition report, so all their sports will have to wait at least one more year for post season eligibility. Highlighted in the report are gender equity problems the NCAA took issue with, a possible catalyst for the reason Men's Lacrosse was dropped.
While no one wants to see a Men's Lacrosse program dropped anywhere, in the big picture where this hurts is the damage it does to any emerging potential for a southern lacrosse conference. With Mercer and High Point recently moving to Division I the talk of a southern conference had heated up. But with the loss of Presbyterian that dream could be all but dead until another Division 1 southern school steps up to the plate. Given the potential for a conference to open up the doors for the sport to the south, it is disappointing that Presbyterian used the lack of Men's Lacrosse sponsorship by the Big South Conference as a reason for discontinuing, rather than seeing the big picture and potential for the sport in the future.
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Jim Brown was one of the greatest football players to ever grace the gridiron. But many say he was better at lacrosse.
Two black lacrosse stars. Five decades apart. Very few like them in between.
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