History of Clemson Men's Lacrosse
CLEMSON LACROSSE HISTORY- A Look Back - by Buff Grubb
The origins of most college club lacrosse teams are often difficult to pinpoint. What began as a casual, “get together and throw the ball around” team was usually not conducive to formal record keeping. What we do know of the earliest days of Clemson lacrosse is kind of like tribal knowledge, orally passed on from one “elder” to another. One can only hope the version we know is similar to what truly was.
We have had alumni contacts who talk of playing lacrosse for the Tigers as early as 1974 or so. In those days there were no leagues or conferences for club teams and it is expected that the teams these clubs played were evenly divided between other college clubs and post-college clubs. It is likely that a lot of the early competition for Clemson was based in Atlanta, though teams existed at Tennessee and it is likely that Charlotte would have had the populace to support a post-college team or two.
A seismic shift in Clemson lacrosse occurred in 1987 when the Tigers and 5 other colleges banded together to create the SELC or SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference. Original members included Auburn, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Emory, and Georgia as well as Clemson. The conference alignment allowed each team to play each other member each season and for the teams to convene in mid or late April to play a tournament to determine the Conference Champion. Tournament locations rotated amongst member schools.
The Tigers won the SELC Championship in 1990.
The SELC experienced slow growth at first with 8 member teams at play in 1990 and up to 12 by the middle of the decade. In 1997 the SELC joined with 5 other club lacrosse conferences across the nation to form a national collegiate club association, today known as the MCLA. From 70 teams in 1997, the MCLA now counts over 230 member teams aligned in 11 conferences.
Clemson lacrosse was competitive throughout the 1990’s making annual trips to the conference play-offs but was unable to capture another championship. The 1998 and 1999 teams, coached by grad student Larry Foster, came close, losing in the conference semi-finals in ’98 and the quarterfinals in ’99.
As the SELC grew, it transitioned from a conference wherein all teams qualified for the season ending tournament to one where the top 8 teams qualified. Throughout the early 2000’s, Clemson struggled to make the field. It was the arrival of transfers Mike Butkus, Nick Feliciano, and Randy Moran who focused on making Clemson lacrosse competitive again. The Tigers made the post-season in 2009, 2011, and 2012, advancing to the Championship game in 2011 where they fell to Florida State. 2011 also saw Clemson have its first player, Will Patch, earn All American honors.
In 2012, the Tigers notched another first, flying west to Colorado, to play 3 games, all victories, including a 6-5 overtime win over host Colorado. Clemson also achieved its’ highest national ranking during the 2012 season of 11th nationally and the Tigers placed 3 players on the All American team: Patch, Chris Buechele, and Jon Kilbourn.
In 2013, Clemson is anticipating a trip to Arizona for 3 games in March and a trip to Maryland in April. The Tigers have emerged as a national presence in the MCLA and the team goal is to qualify for the MCLA National Championships in 2013. The tournament will be hosted in nearby Greenville, South Carolina the 3rd week of May.
Clemson lacrosse operates a fall season and a spring season. “Fall ball” gets underway very shortly after school begins in August. The team will practice on average three evenings a week and play 5-8 games before the fall season concludes around the end of October. There will be an organizational meeting scheduled in late August that all players should plan to attend. The 2012 fall season will be highlighted by the 6thAnnual Clemson Southern Comfort Tournament with the Tigers hosting 7 college teams as well as up to 8 consolidated high school teams, playing alternate games the weekend of October 26th-28th, 2012.
For incoming freshmen, bring your gear to school, you can use existing helmets and gloves for fall. All players are strongly encouraged to participate in fall ball. Given the limited amount of practice time available in spring (only 2 weeks from start of practice until first game) fall ball is when we put in a lot of what we will run in the spring. Participating in fall will get players familiar with our system, get to know their teammates better, and allow the team to get off on right foot in spring.
If push comes to shove and a player has academic obligations they have to take care of, we certainly prefer that they schedule these in the fall to allow full focus on lacrosse in spring.
The “real” season, starts as soon as classes resume in mid-January, with 4 evening practices (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) a week. Games begin in early February and regular season concludes around the middle of April. The team will play 8 or more SELC teams and as a happy consequence of our geographic location, will usually host 4-5 teams from out of conference, searching for some good weather early in the season. Over the last couple of years, Clemson has hosted teams from Boston College and the University of Buffalo. This is another unique aspect of MCLA lacrosse, the opportunity to play leading schools from throughout the country.
The team will average 12 -15 games a season with some weekends playing two games as well as the occasional mid-week game under the lights. In 2012, the team travelled to Colorado at the beginning of Spring Break and played 3 games. A trip to Arizona is being planned for Spring Break 2013.
Travel to away games will vary, depending on distance. The team travels primarily by chartered motor coach.
The season will continue through the SELC Championships in late April if the team merits a bid, followed potentially by a trip to the MCLA National Championships in mid May.
To date, Clemson Lacrosse has never held try-outs or imposed cuts. In 2006, the team consisted of 44 players and a two man coaching staff. In 2007 we carried 48 players with a 3 man coaching staff. In 2008, we counted 51 players and a 3 man coaching staff.
As the team receives only about 20% of its’ funding from the University, it has to fund raise about the balance. On average, counting officials’ fees and travel, administrative costs, uniforms, equipment, travel, the team operates on a budget of approximately $45,000. The team will coordinate a number of different fund raising efforts and does approach and receive support from alumni and player’s families, the most significant portion of funds are provided by player dues. For the 2005 – 2006 and 2006 – 2007 seasons, dues have averaged about $600.00 a player. The team makes every effort to minimize the dues required of each player. It is critical that players actively participate in fund raising activities. It is in their own interest to do so.
The team provides game uniforms, practice jerseys and shorts for each player. When the team travels, the team will pay for travel and lodging. Coaches and players will feed themselves. Players also need to provide their own protective equipment including matching helmets and gloves. The team works with a number of vendors to achieve the most favorable pricing possible to minimize costs. (NOTE: For fall lacrosse, players are allowed to wear existing helmets and gloves (as long as they meet NCAA specifications). Matching helmets and gloves are not required until the spring season.
All players are expected to make all practices unless they have a class conflict or are working a job that is a necessity for them to attend Clemson. All conflicts must be made known to the team officers in advance.
The team does recognize that academics take precedent but players are not excused from practice to study or make-up work. It is expected that all players will develop the time-management skills necessary to succeed in college and accommodating the 6 to 8 hours of practice a week should not be a challenge.
We also recognize that players will have out-of-classroom obligations specific to their major and the team will recognize and excuse players in this situation if conflicts are made known in advance. Our intent is to make playing lacrosse complementary to your college experience, not dominate it.
It is essential for Clemson lacrosse to achieve its full potential that players make a strong commitment to the program and prioritize other activities and obligations to accommodate lacrosse. This includes fraternity or other social memberships as well as other extracurricular activities.
All players are urged to join US Lacrosse though this is not mandatory. Besides benefits beyond support of the game and Lacrosse Magazine subscription, US Lacrosse provides supplemental insurance which can be of great value in the event of an injury.
All lacrosse players must be full-time undergraduates, carrying at least 12 credit hours in the spring semester. Exceptions to this include students with learning disabilities who are limited by the University in terms of their course load. Any student in this situation will have to file an appeal for exemption with the MCLA National Chair of Eligibility. If a student is due to graduate at the end of the spring semester, he is required only to carry those credits necessary to complete his degree. Also, graduate students are eligible to compete if they meet the following criteria: 1) they are carrying a 12 credit hour semester course load. 2) they have collegiate eligibility remaining (MCLA allows 4 seasons of competition at any level in collegiate lacrosse.)
Any player who drops a class after the start of a spring semester and falls below the 12 credit hour minimum MUST notify the team leadership and is no longer eligible to participate. Clemson is required to submit registrar-certified rosters to the MCLA and the SELC at start of season and prior to conclusion of season. Any violation of eligibility can result in the team forfeiting its’ season.
Clemson’s home field is on the lower club sports fields, is natural grass, and has lights. There are no locker rooms or changing facilities dedicated to team use. We have a certified athletic trainer present at all home games and players have access to a trainer when necessary via the Rec Sports Department.
Clemson Lacrosse is governed by the Rec Sports Department under the guidance of Mark Ferguson, within Clemson University's Office of Student Affairs. The team elects its’ team officers annually. This is one way in which club lacrosse differs from its varsity counterparts. The team leadership is responsible for a wide range of team activities, from scheduling to budgeting to uniforms and arranging travel. This is one of the benefits offered by participation at the club level. Students learn what it takes to operate a successful program; it’s not done for them. They have to prepare presentations to the University to secure allocated funds, develop a comprehensive budget covering conference dues, referee fees, uniform and equipment costs, travel costs, etc., and then develop and implement a funding program to make it all happen. Given that the program operates both a fall and spring season, has conference and national obligations to address, requires that this become a year round effort on behalf of all team officers.
The Coaches’ primary focus is on game play, practice agenda, etc. The “extracurricular” aspects of the team are primarily the responsibility of the team officers, ranging from relations with University administration to complying with Conference and National obligations to making travel arrangements.
Alumni & Family
Clemson lacrosse is developing an ever-expanding contact list for alumni. There is an annual alumni game played in the spring followed by a social hour. The team will also provide a periodic newsletter and updated website. We also try to schedule home games in fall on parent’s and Homecoming weekends.
PHILANTHROPY! - May 1, 2012
Dear Clemson Lacrosse Family:
Last Friday night, our team did a very special thing for a local teenager battling cancer: they made him an honorary team member at the SELC Playoffs and invited him to share the sideline excitement of the evening. Please see the very touching thank you from his mother, forwarded through Susan Fochtmann, to Clemson Lacrosse! For me this note definitely helps keep things in perspective! Thank you, Susan, for arranging this honor both for Tyler and for us all.
fighting for goals
Last night Ty was lifted out of his cancer battle for a while - the battle that has taken place on our sofa, in his room, in his bed, in the Aflac clinic and hospital rooms for the past year- to the lacrosse field at South Forsyth H.S. Our friend Susan and her son William arranged to have him named an honorary team member of the Clemson Tiger lacrosse team for the SELC tournament game they played last night. There was Ty on the sidelines, in a team jersey sporting the number "1", his bald head in shining contrast to the sea of lax helmets huddled around him. I enjoyed watching him from my seat in the stands as he engaged in their sideline chatter.It was a great game and the Tigers fought hard.
Cancer treatment places us around great "fighters" all the time. It is a quiet battle for well-being as these kids submit to drugs that take away so much of what makes up their personality and lifestyle - the stuff I take for granted every day. Of course their personalities shine through even in these challenging times - Tyler patiently works through a 90 minute nosebleed (because his platelet counts are incredibly low this week due to chemo). (Thank you, Jennifer, for being there with the Kleenex box!) Tyler felt the friendship and support from that lax team and he in turn gives us cause to celebrate life.
Update by Ellen Hayes
Lacrosse is One of the Oldest Known Sports in North America!
Early recorded data on lacrosse, as far back as the 1630’s, comes from missionaries and explorers and is sparse and often conflicting. However, it is known that in the traditional Native Canadian forms of the sport, teams could have hundreds of players on fields over a mile long, and games could last a few days! The sport played a significant role in the lives of tribe members, whether as a spiritual event, a ritual with curative purposes, or a surrogate for war. Sometimes, territorial disputes between tribes were settled with a lacrosse game.
The role of lacrosse in American Indian life declined by the late 19th century in the face of cultural erosion and government pressure. When the Choctaw of Oklahoma added lead weights to their sticks to use them as skull-crackers, the game was banned. However, non-native lacrosse hailing from Montreal is today one of the fastest growing sports in North America. The field game of women players today most closely resembles the traditional Indian style, with a wooden stick, lack of protective gear, and demarcated sidelines, and use of a mass attack strategy.
US Lacrosse Hall of Fame/History – by Thomas Vennum, Jr. Author of American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War
Lacrosse was one of the many varieties of indigenous stickball games being played by American Indians at the time of European contact. Almost exclusively a male team sport, it is distinguished from the others, such as field hockey or shinny, by the use of a netted racquet with which to pick the ball off the ground, throw, catch, and convey it into or past a goal to score a point. The cardinal rule in all varieties of lacrosse was that the ball, with few exceptions, must not be touched with the hands.
Early data on lacrosse, from missionaries such as French Jesuits in Huron country in the 1630’s and English explorers, such as Jonathan Carver in the mid-eighteenth century Great Lakes area, are scant and often conflicting. They inform us mostly about team size, equipment used, the duration of games, and length of playing fields, but tell us almost nothing about stick handling, game strategy, or the rules of play. The oldest surviving sticks date only from the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and the first detailed reports on Indian lacrosse are even later. George Beers provided good information on Mohawk playing techniques in his Lacrosse (1869), while James Mooney in the American Anthropologist (1890) described in detail the “(Eastern) Cherokee Ball-Play,” including its legendary basis, elaborate rituals, and the rules and manner of play.
Given the paucity of early data, we shall probably never be able to reconstruct the history of the sport. Attempts to connect it to the rubber- ball games of Meso-America, or to a perhaps older game using a simple post surmounted by some animal effigy and played together by men and women, remain speculative. As can best be determined, the distribution of lacrosse shows it to have been played throughout the eastern half of North America, mostly by tribes in the southeast, around the western Great Lakes, and in the St. Lawrence Valley area. Its presence today in Oklahoma and other states west of the Mississippi reflects tribal removals to those areas in the nineteenth century. Although isolated reports exist of some form of lacrosse among northern California and British Columbia tribes, their late date brings into question any widespread diffusion of the sport on the west coast.
On the basis of the equipment, the type of goal used, and the stick-handling techniques, it is possible to discern three basic forms of lacrosse – the Southeastern, Great Lakes, and Iroquoian. Among Southeastern tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, Yuchi, and others), a double-stick version of the game was still practiced. A two-and-a-half foot stick is held in each hand, and the soft, small deerskin ball is retrieved and cupped between them. Great Lakes players (Ojibwe, Menominee, Potawatomi, Sauk, Fox, Miami, Winnebago, Santee Dakota, and others) used a single three-foot stick. It terminated in a round, closed pocket about three to four inches in diameter, scarcely larger than the ball, which was usually made of wood, charred, and scraped to shape. The northeastern stick, found among Iroquoian and New England tribes, was the progenitor of all present-day sticks, both in box as well as field lacrosse. The longest of the three - usually more than three feet - it was characterized by its shaft ending in a sort of crook and a large, flat triangular surface of webbing extending as much as two-thirds the length of the stick. Where the outermost string met the shaft, it formed the pocket of the stick.
Lacrosse was given its name by early French settlers, using the generic term for any game played with a curved stick (crosse) and a ball. Native terminology, however, tends to describe more the technique (cf. Onandaga DEHUNTSHIGWA’ES, “men hit a rounded object”) or, especially in the southeast, to underscore the game’s aspects of war surrogacy (“little brother of war”). There is no evidence of non-Indians taking up the game until the mid-nineteenth century, when English-speaking Montrealers adopted the Mohawk game they were familiar with from Caughnawauga and Akwesasne, attempted to “civilize” the sport with a new set of rules and to organize into amateur clubs. Once the game quickly grew in popularity in Canada, it began to be exported throughout the Commonwealth, as non-native teams traveled to Europe for exhibition matches against Iroquois players. Ironically, because Indians had to charge money in order to travel, they were excluded as “professionals” from international competition for more than a century. Only with the formation of the Iroquois Nationals in the 1980’s did they successfully break this barrier and become eligible to compete in World Games.
Apart from its recreational function, lacrosse traditionally played a more serious role in Indian culture. Its origins are rooted in legend, and the game continues to be used for curative purposes and surrounded with ceremony. Game equipment and players are still ritually prepared by conjurers, and team selection and victory are often considered to be supernaturally controlled. In the past, lacrosse also served to vent aggression, and territorial disputes between tribes were sometimes settled with a game, although not always amicably. A Creek versus Choctaw game around 1790 to determine rights over a beaver pond broke out into a violent battle when the Creeks were declared winners. Still, rituals required of the players were identical to those practiced before departing on the warpath.
A number of factors led to the demise of lacrosse in many areas by the late nineteenth century. Wagering on games had always been integral to an Indian community’s involvement, but when betting and violence saw an increase as traditional Indian culture was eroding, it sparked opposition to lacrosse from government officials and missionaries. The games were felt to interfere with church attendance and the wagering to have an impoverishing effect on the Indians. When Oklahoma Choctaw began to attach lead weights to their sticks around 1900 to use them as skull-crackers, the game was outright banned.
Meanwhile, the spread of nonnative lacrosse from the Montreal area eventually led to its position today worldwide as one of the fastest growing sports (more than half a million players), controlled by official regulations, and played with manufactured rather than hand-made equipment – the aluminum shafted stick with its plastic head, for example. While the Great Lakes traditional game died out by 1950, the Iroquois and southeastern tribes continue to play their own forms of lacrosse. Ironically, the field lacrosse game of nonnative women today most closely resembles the Indian game of the past, retaining the wooden stick, lacking the protective gear and demarcated sidelines of the men’s game, and tending towards mass attack rather than field positions and offsides.
Culin, Steward. “Games of the North American Indians.” In Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1902-1903, pp. 1-840, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1907
Fogelson, Raymond, “The Cherokee Ball Game: A Study in Southeastern Ethnology.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania, 1962
Vennum, Thomas, Jr. American Indian Lacrosse: Little Brother of War, Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994
To See Full Lacrosse Historical Timeline, go to: http://www.uslacrosse.org/TopNav/MuseumHallofFame/History.aspx
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