By Kristy Kissoff
UT Communications Major
Who would have thought that an advertisement for players in the Collegian student newspaper in 1972 would turn into a long standing lacrosse club?
In conjunction with the 40th Anniversary celebration of the first team that was spawned by that Collegian ad, several members of the 1972 inaugural squad were able to watch the current UT Men’s team take on the Ohio University Bobcats in their last home game of the season. As they sat in the lofty perch of the Glass Bowl press tower, Jim DiSerio, one of the co-founders of the club recalled that a challenge of their practices in the 70’s consisted of attempting to throw the ball over the Glass Bowl press box. DiSerio said, “We would have a hard time doing that now because of all the changes that the stadium has undergone since we were players.”
Members of that original team including DiSerio, Hal Hamer and Mike Koch, all marveled at how much the university had changed since they had last visited the campus. DiSerio beamed with pride as the team wore throwback jerseys that had been presented to them the night before at the anniversary reception. DiSerio donated the ’72 replica jerseys after stumbling upon the UT lacrosse website only weeks before. After confirming that this was the team that he helped create, he was more than excited to travel from California to Toledo to support the team and reconnect with old friends.
The anniversary celebration the previous night on Saturday, April 14th at Le Petit Gourmet in Maumee, was hosted by UT Lacrosse alumnus John Kozak. Alumni and current players along with many of their family members joined together to enjoy the festivities for the night. The reception included a display of memorabilia from past UT lacrosse teams, a slide show of pictures and newspaper clippings detailing the history of the club and a silent auction of jerseys and photographs autographed by the current team.
At the reception, Hal Hamer recollected the history of the lacrosse club over the years, as he has been involved from the point of the team’s inception up through his tasks this season when he taped lines on the field for the current team’s games. Even the current and past players were surprised to hear that the lacrosse team holds the UT school record for longest winning streak with 37 consecutive victories over several seasons in the early 90’s.
The anniversary weekend had started earlier that day with the annual alumni game at UT’s Glass Bowl Stadium. Two teams were formed with alumni players from every decade in order to allow for a competitively balanced game which ended with a 12-11 final score and only a few pulled muscles. Fifty alumni returned to UT for the game traveling from as far as Iowa, California, Florida and Colorado. Some members of the ’72 team even used their original wooden sticks during the game. Many of the club’s earliest players recalled playing in the Glass Bowl prior to the change from natural grass to Astroturf following their 1974 season.
However the change in playing surfaces is not the only thing to have improved in the last 40 years. Last year, the lacrosse club joined the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) where they compete in the Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association (CCLA) conference. The MCLA is the highest echelon of lacrosse at the college club level. The move to the MCLA highlights the progress of the UT lacrosse team and their greater commitment to excellence. This is the level from which most NCAA Division 1 lacrosse teams arise and the MCLA contains the top club teams in the nation. This year, the Rockets traveled to Indianapolis to play Indiana and East Lansing to play Michigan State as well as hosting Pittsburgh and Purdue in the Glass Bowl.
In addition to the higher level of competition, the MCLA carries with it a higher financial burden. The alumni weekend served a dual purpose of reinvigorating alumni involvement and raising funds for the club. The proceeds from the alumni game and reception went to the current team’s operating costs with over $1500 raised for the team.
Hamer spoke at the reception about the cost of playing lacrosse. “When I was asked to play on the first team, I didn’t have enough money to buy a stick,” Hamer said. “I was lucky enough to have one of the other guys trade me his old wooden stick for a few of my record albums and without that I wouldn’t be where I am today giving back to my team.”
“The cost of operating this team is fairly pricey,” current Coach Mike McComish said. “We have to pay for equipment, travel, renting the Glass Bowl and hiring the referees.” The MCLA also requires that all players on a team must have matching gloves and helmets as well as an athletic trainer present at games.
The team’s $50,000 budget is made up primarily of player dues. The players must also supply much of their own equipment. The rest of the budget must be supplied by donations. Many lacrosse alumni hope to help alleviate some of the financial burden on the players so that they can focus more on playing lacrosse.
Hal Hamer echoed that the change in financial burden on the players is significant. Hamer said a wooden lacrosse stick in the 1970s cost $5. Today, sticks are made of different types of engineered materials and can cost over $200. He also recalled that when he had a sprained ankle after a game, he was given a half roll of athletic tape by a fellow team member. The team had no budget to buy more tape so Hamer had to make the partial roll last. He dutifully taped the used pieces each night to the wall of his dorm room until it eventually lost its adhesiveness after a week of use.
In order to assist the team, a lacrosse alumni board of directors has been formed to help sustain the club in order to create a connection between alumni and the current team. This group will also act as an organizational and fundraising arm for the team in the future. The board has created an online database consisting of rosters of all past years’ teams and hopes to reconnect with as many members as possible.
The 40th anniversary weekend was one of seeing old teammates reconnect and new friendships being created. The UT Lacrosse alumni were able to meet the current players and their families, bridging the gap from present to future, something that the lacrosse alumni board is striving towards.
While the current lacrosse team does not need to advertise for players like they did in 1972, they now have players that are looking forward to attending UT for the purpose of playing lacrosse.
“We have had dozens of contacts from players that now want to come to UT specifically to play lacrosse with us due to our elevated status,” Coach McComish said.
Any alumni of the lacrosse team and the University of Toledo are encouraged to visit the utrocketslacrosse.com website for updates on the team’s status and continue the connections that were made during the anniversary event. With everyone’s help, the future of the UT Men’s Lacrosse club will be assured another 40 years of memories.