A Conversation with Illinois Head Lacrosse Coach
and USLIA Second Vice President Brian Mosher

E-Lacrosse's new USLIA Correspondent, Sonny Pieper, talks lax with Brian Mosher.

E-Lacrosse: Give us some personal background. Where did you grow up?

Mosher: I am 33 years old and have been the head coach of Illinois for six years now. I am a navy brat so I grew up all over the country but primarily in Virginia. I was born in Virginia Beach and spent my high school days in Northern Virginia.

E-Lacrosse: How did you get involved with lacrosse initially?

Mosher: I was first introduced to the game when I was a freshman in high school living in Springfield, VA. It was at that time I began to play for Springfield Youth Club and then later for my high school team, Lake Braddock.

E-Lacrosse: How did you get involved with Illinois Lacrosse?

Mosher: I hadn't played a great deal while in the Navy but I brought my equipment every where I went. I knew that the university had a club team so when I got to Illinois, I simply looked them up and the rest is history.

E-Lacrosse: What brought you to Champaign?

Mosher: After a brief attempt at college life at Saint Mary's College of Maryland I joined the Naval Reserve to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and help pay for my college education. My reserve squadron was located in Glenview, Illinois… so the University of Illinois was the logical choice. I knew that it was a great school with an aviation program and a lacrosse team so for me it really was a pretty simple choice. Unfortunately when I was a player at Illinois we never had much of a team. We had our share of good players but lacrosse was never their priority so a .500 season was about as good as we could hope for. We did have a lot of fun though. Despite our losing ways, we really loved to travel and we always had a good time. Oh the stories I could tell but I won't bore you with any of the details other than to mention these three things; Michigan, Big Boy, and Junior Mint. The fact that my favorite memory as a player revolves around our off the field antics as opposed to any game we ever played in should tell you an awful lot. We have certainly come a long way since then. To be perfectly honest my greatest memories as a player revolve around the friendships that I developed on the team. Hitting the road week after week with the same 20 guys is something I will never forget.

E-Lacrosse: Explain the "transition" to Illinois coach.

Mosher: The transition from player to coach wasn't an easy one. Once I got over the initial urge to take the field every day, coaching my friends and fellow roommates was the next big hurdle. I must admit that when the team first asked me to take over the coaching responsibilities I was a bit intrigued. I had never coached anyone in my life but it was painfully obvious week in and week out that we needed to do something so despite a few arguments here and there the first year went pretty well. I never realized everything that went into running the lacrosse team here at Illinois but I must admit that I have never regretted the opportunity for one minute.

E-Lacrosse: Talk about the former Big Ten Lacrosse Conference.

Mosher: The Big Ten Lacrosse Conference was a loosely run organization made up of mostly all Big Ten schools. It had been in existence on and off again since the early 80's. I was the commissioner of the conference for the last three years of its existence. It was during that time that I was charged with exploring our options at the national level. The only thing out there at the time was the NCLL but we kept hearing rumblings about the USILA and NIRSA wanting to get more involved with college club lacrosse.

E-Lacrosse: Why the move to the CCLA?

Mosher: The move to the CCLA was more of a face-lift really than a move. As John Paul (Head Coach of Michigan) took over as commissioner of the conference he was getting pressure from various people to lose the Big Ten name, mainly the Big Ten. JP also wanted to take the lead from other leagues like the WCLL and the SELC. We had gotten where we wanted to be now we just needed to package the whole thing a little better, to really take charge of our league and the teams that were in it. A fresh new start with some new teams and a new name just seemed to make sense.

E-Lacrosse: How did you get involved with the USLIA?

Mosher: As I mentioned earlier I was charged with exploring the Big Ten's national options and at the time there was really only one, the NCLL. So the Big Ten joined the NCLL and competed as a league from '95 until '97. Certain teams, unhappy with the decision or at the very least the organization of the NCLL decided not to compete nationally. Most notably, Michigan. My involvement with the USLIA, or as it was known back then the associates of the USILA, simply dropped in my lap. As commissioner of the Big Ten I can only assume that I filled a geographical void for the associates of the USILA and I was contacted by Bob Korba in late 1996 about the possibility of our conference joining the 'ILA. Michigan was back in and it seemed like a great opportunity but there where still some questions to be answered. In the spring of '97 the conference competed in both the NCLL and the USILA and our decision was very clear. The USILA was the way to go. That is certainly not a knock on the NCLL or what NIRSA tried to put together. Both those organizations fill or did fill a very important void where college club lacrosse is concerned but the USILA simply meet our needs far better than the other two organizations.

E-Lacrosse: Explain your current role with the USLIA.

Mosher: Once again I feel fortunate to have been asked to be a part of this whole college club movement and to work with the people who had the foresight to begin the process years and years ago. They do all the work and I somehow share in all the credit. It worked out well I think. Currently I am the 2nd USLIA Vice-President, in charge of Membership and Competition for the USLIA. My primary responsibilities include: the recruitment and retention of teams and leagues; the sanctioning of those teams and leagues as well as their players to include such matters as eligibility, regular season competition, and the rules governing such competition; and as liaison between both the coach's and official's council of US Lacrosse.

E-Lacrosse: Do you have any praises or criticisms for the USLIA yet?

Mosher: For me personally the experience has been great. I am involved with a game I truly love and after three very short and very successful years the hard work of a select few is really starting to pay off. Of course the greatest benefit belongs to the 1000's of student -athletes at some 100 plus colleges and universities across North America that now have an avenue to showcase their talents and deservedly so. Don't get me wrong, there is vast room for improvement. However, with the help of US Lacrosse we are not only able to better promote the game while providing greater opportunities for our college athletes but we can begin to focus on the needs of the 100's of other programs sitting in limbo not to mention the tens of 1000's of future college players looking for a place to play by providing a viable option for them in which to compete. I guess the one downside is that you quickly realize that you can't be everything to everyone. The bigger you get the more there is to do and the more pressure there is to do it right. Not like we haven't been trying all along, I guess you just hear a lot more of the criticisms with a bigger audience. On the other hand it keeps people involved, interested if you will, and that can go a long way in helping us achieve our goal which is to provide the greatest lacrosse experience for as many college teams and athletes as possible.

E-Lacrosse: What do you think of the future for the USLIA?

Mosher: The future is so bright…. In just three short years we have only begun to reach our potential and I can only hope that you ask me that same question three years from now because I truly believe the sky is the limit.

E-Lacrosse: How do you control / promote the growth of college lacrosse on the USLIA level?

Mosher: The game is growing whether we like it or not. The challenge isn't in starting new teams or finding new players, believe me they are out there. The challenge is in making what we do accessible to everyone, to be inclusive rather than exclusive. We have demonstrated over the last three years that if we put together a quality product that people will want a piece of it. Maintaining that quality is what is at issue. Being non-varsity programs is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand we are not constrained with such issues as Title IX or the NCAA but we do have our own set of problems as well. Coaches, officials, and the finances to compete on a national level are just a few of them not to mention the manpower to keep this volunteer organization running. Fortunately it is a challenge that I believe we are up for.

E-Lacrosse: Talk about the structure (administratively, financially, etc.) of Illinois Lacrosse.

Mosher: Well we currently have a staff of three coaches and three team managers plus our team officers and captains. To say that we have some sort of democratic process would be somewhat misleading. Quit frankly, I pretty much run everything that there is to run in regards to Illinois Lacrosse but I would also like to add that I do it with a lot of help. The officers and captains play an active role in such things as scheduling, fundraising, and other financial matters. When each kid shells out upwards of $1600.00 a year just to play lacrosse they should have some say in the matter.

E-Lacrosse: How does this differ from a traditional varsity program?

Mosher: I really couldn't say seeing as how I have never coached or run a varsity program but I would have to think that the main issues are about the same. The only difference is that they have a paid staff and support system in which to carry things out while we here at Illinois rely exclusively on volunteers to make things happen. Everything we have and everything we do, we do ourselves with the help and generosity of our supporters.

E-Lacrosse: Are you able to recruit for Illinois Lacrosse?

Mosher: Yes and no. This is one area where we need to do, or should I say, I need to do a better job. We just don't have the money or time to actively go out and recruit kids but we definitely try and make ourselves accessible to them and when they contact us we do what we can.

E-Lacrosse: If I was a high school lacrosse kid in say upstate NY or Baltimore, why would I want to come to Champaign?

Mosher: Well first off the only reason anyone should be going to college is to get an education and eventually a job. I will be the first one to tell you that the job market for lacrosse players sucks. Now a lacrosse player with a degree, that's a different story. So why Illinois? Simple, it is one of the country's finest academic institutions with nationally ranked programs in engineering, finance, accounting, etc. as well as a very competitive nationally ranked lacrosse program. Let's face it, no one is going to get rich playing lacrosse and scholarships are few and far between so why not go somewhere that would enable you to get a quality education while at the same time allow you to play very competitive lacrosse. The answer seems obvious.

E-Lacrosse: Do you have any assistant coaches at Illinois?

Mosher: Yes, two. Paul Parasugo is a graduate of Illinois and a former player of mine. In fact, Paul holds several of Illinois' scoring titles including career points with 306. Jason Bletzinger is currently attending graduate school at Illinois while assisting with the team. He was an assistant high school coach in Chicago before returning to school to get his Masters in School Administration.

E-Lacrosse: Will lacrosse ever go varsity at the University of Illinois?

Mosher: I don't want to sound pessimistic because I truly hope that some day they do but unless things change dramatically it is not in Illinois' near future and by that I mean the next 10 - 15 years.

E-Lacrosse: Why not?

Mosher: It has everything to do with the big business of college athletics, the NCAA, and compliance with title IX. Unfortunately even solving one of the issues won't be enough.

E-Lacrosse: Do you want to go varsity?

Mosher: I would love to go varsity or should I say the university to go varsity but you have to understand that wont change what we are doing hear at Illinois or nationally. It will provide more opportunities for more kids and will help bring lacrosse into the main stream which is outstanding but there will still be a need for a club team at Illinois and a place for them and teams like them to compete.

E-Lacrosse: After your opening weekend, Illinois' record stands at 4-1 (and you are ranked #12 in the country)… How do you feel so far about your season?

Mosher: We are very pleased with the start of our season but we also understand that we have work to do. It's just nice to see that the gap between where we need to be and where we are is a lot smaller than it was this time a year ago.

E-Lacrosse: Comment on playing Harford (a JUCO team from Bel Air, Maryland) vs. playing Tennessee (a top rated USLIA team) to open the season.

Mosher: We actually learned a lot from playing both teams. I am often criticized for opening our season against Tennessee every year and for then continuing on to play four more games in three days but I really believe that it lets us know, pretty quickly, exactly where we stand in a number of areas. With a 21 game schedule, including five top 10 teams, getting that information early is critical. We feel pretty good about the remainder of our regular season schedule. It will most certainly be a challenge but at the same time it will make us a much better team in the process.

E-Lacrosse: Do you feel that your team is underrated or over-ranked?

Mosher: I certainly don't want to seem critical of the poll but we are definitely underrated. Fortunately we still have 16 games left to prove it.

E-Lacrosse: Does the high ranking help or hurt your team's confidence?

Mosher: To be honest I am not really sure how it effects their confidence but it definitely helps their motivation. They know that they are a better team than #12 and and they want to go out prove that one game at a time.

E-Lacrosse: Biggest game left on the slate?

Mosher: If you were looking for a date it would have to be the CCLA championship game on April 30th. After all that game, regardless of our regular season play could get us to Nationals. Practically speaking there are probably five or six games remaining on our schedule that will make or break this team and anyone who knows anything about Illinois Lacrosse should have little difficulty figuring out who those games are against.

E-Lacrosse: What's your outlook for the CCLA regular season and CCLA tournament?

Mosher: We feel confident that we will not only win the western division but the CCLA Tournament as well.

E-Lacrosse: Talk about the opportunity to play in St. Louis 3 years running.

Mosher: We feel very fortunate to have made it to St. Louis three years running. The tournament has not only gotten better each year but the caliber of play has improved tremendously. St. Louis is truly a great experience.

E-Lacrosse: What has been the biggest surprise for you as the associate's teams / leagues merged into US Lacrosse?

Mosher: The added support and publicity was something that we expected and US Lacrosse has certainly delivered on that end. What has actually surprised me was the added respect we are beginning to see from the rest of the lacrosse community. Joining US Lacrosse has in many ways given us an increased sense of legitimacy. We are, for the first time, setting our own agenda while continuing to produce a quality product and US Lacrosse has in many ways provided an avenue for us to do that.

E-Lacrosse: How has the publicity from US Lacrosse (& Lacrosse Magazine) helped your program?

Mosher: I think that it has helped the entire 'LIA in terms of getting the word out but in terms of Illinois how has it helped? I can tell you this much, having a player on the cover of Lacrosse Magazine has certainly caught the interest of both alumni and perspective players. I have received countless emails that all begin…. "Hey I saw you in Lacrosse Magazine and". What becomes of any of this is yet to be seen but the peaked interest in Illinois Lacrosse is definitely a plus.

E-Lacrosse: Who are the key players (hometowns, high schools, etc.) on your team this year?

Mosher: I don't want it to seem like I am ducking this question but I have been telling this team since last August that everyone is going to have to play a key role on this team in order for us to be successful. With a 25-man roster, deep is something that we are not. We need to clearly define everyone's role and then it simply boils down to execution.

E-Lacrosse: Who will have to step up if you want to return to St. Louis?

Mosher: Again, that is going to require an all out team effort. Our success will ultimately be measured by our ability to play smart, hard, disciplined lacrosse as a team for four quarters. In a sense, everyone is going to have to step it up in order for us to return to St. Louis.

E-Lacrosse: How does this year's team compare with last year's squad?

Mosher: This year's team is far and away superior to last year's squad. One year has helped this team immensely.

E-Lacrosse: What does the future hold for Illinois Lacrosse?

Mosher: Well hopefully the near future will consists of recapturing our conference title and playing for the National Championship. My long term plans mainly evolve around solidifying the program here at Illinois in three areas; recruiting, fundraising, and increasing awareness within our own university community. To remain competitive nationally we are going to have to bring in some new talent as well as figure out how to generate the nearly six figure income needed to simply keep up with the Jones'. Getting our due recognition from the university is merely a pet project of mine but something I feel our players desperately deserve.

Illinois Lacrosse

University of Illionois

The University of Illinois at the 2000 Southern Shootout Tournament Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA) on February 19-20, 2000

U.S.L.I.A. site (our Sonny Pieper is the webmaster)