|Look. We know that you did a double take when you saw that Notre Dame 11, Virginia 8 score on Wednesday. But now the Irish are 5-0 after beating powerhouse Loyola on Saturday. On Tuesday they were voted second in the nation in the coaches' polls. A week ago the discussion in the lacrosse world was focused on this Saturday's match-up between then-number-2 Princeton at then-number-1 Syracuse, because of the seeming disparity between those two and the rest of the field. But the upset win by Johns Hopkins in the Dome shook up the world. The Orange dropped to a surprising 6th in the polls, while Notre Dame moved into the number 2 spot, the highest any western team has ever climbed.|
So, now the focus is shared between that same Princeton-Syracuse game and the Notre Dame-Hofstra game, both to be played Saturday in the state of New York. If the ultra-motivated Orange can pull off a not-so-unlikely upset at home and the Irish can win on the road, lacrosse will see a milestone passed. A goal achieved, actually, by Kevin Corrigan, the coach of the Irish for the last 13 years and the kids that have worn the uniform proudly under his guidance, but to be savored by us all, if accomplished. Lacrosse may officially become a national sport at the highest level this week. But Kevin Corrigan wants no part of that talk. For now, at least. We spoke with Kevin Tuesday night and, as you will read, he's the consummate; the epitome of a coach who's a coach's son. He won't take credit due, doesn't read the polls, extols the virtues of seniors and has very little interest in lacrosse things more than a game away. Because in the possible wake of history he's just preparing for the next opponent, the same as he does every week.
E-Lacrosse: You've had a great start to the 2001 season. Undefeated, and probably with the hardest games behind you. What's your assessment at this point?
Corrigan: Well, I mean obviously we're delighted that we're 5 and 0, but it's been interesting, you know. We felt like at various points we've done a lot of things well, but we haven't had a game where we've done everything well. The first couple games of the year our face off guy was winning about 75%. In the last two games against Virginia and Loyola we couldn't buy a face off. When we played Rutgers last week we cleared the ball I think 32 out of 33 times and in that game in the second half against Loyola we couldn't clear the ball. We've played great 6 on 6 defense at times and at other times struggled a little bit with it. That's what I mean. It's kind of funny. It's across the board. I mean, our man-up has had games where we've been 0 for 4 but against Loyola we were 5 for 8 the other day and we were 4 for 6 in a game against Penn State earlier in the year. So, you just take it where you can get it right now. It's nice to have some things that we are doing well but we still feel like we could make a lot of improvement and know that we'll need to if we want to continue winning.
E-Lacrosse: You talked about the man-up. I saw that game against Loyola and was impressed by it. Some of your man up goals came from good foot movement as opposed to just ball movement. I even noticed that in the general offense you were beating guys with a good mix of passing and foot speed to get the open feed or shot. Is that by design or is that just the way it worked out.
Corrigan: Well, you know, we have 6 seniors on our man up team right now and they've been playing together for a while. They are playing with confidence and they are just doing a lot of things that experienced guys do. They've been around a little bit now and they've seen a lot. They're just making plays and they're not over thinking things but at the same time they have a good feel for what's going on and what people are doing against them. I think we're benefiting a lot from our experience with that group. Offensively, I think we work real hard to try to create offense on the ball and off the ball. We don't rely on isolation dodges and those things to create offense and I think that's benefited us as well.
E-Lacrosse: We can't ignore the fact that today you were ranked #2 by the coaches' poll. How do you feel about that; your fellow coaches ranking you #2?
Corrigan: I think it's great for our kids. I'm very excited for them but you know what, it really doesn't change what we have to do. I mean, it's mid-march, not mid-may so for us it's a nice thing but we've got a game Saturday against Hofstra and they're an excellent team. There are a lot of things we have to get better at to be able to win that game so our job doesn't change just because we have a higher ranking but I'm excited for our kids and I think it's great for them. I just hope it doesn't distract us from what we need to do. It certainly puts a big bulls-eye on our chest for the rest of the year. Whether we maintain that ranking or not that's something that is going to make us more the hunted in all our games from here on out.
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E-Lacrosse: Before the season started and before Hofstra lost to UMmass in an upset, everybody touted Hofstra as a possible giant-killer. After losses to Hopkins, Loyola and Princeton since then, are they still in that potential role as you come to town.
Corrigan: No question and they've got the capability of doing that. I mean, if you look at the way their season is going and hey, all the sudden that Umass loss doesn't look so bad either because they're doing very well. But, You go from a very good and experienced UMass team to an excellent Loyola team to being 0 and 2 and having to play Hopkins and almost pulling that one out and then you have to play Princeton. So it's understandable how they got where they are, but despite their record, I've seen the film and they're an excellent team. They've played some very good lacrosse. They were ahead of Loyola 8 - 6 at half time.
E-Lacrosse: Are they 0 and 4 now?
E-Lacrosse: Would you agree with me that they are the best 0 and 4 team in a few years?
Corrigan: They are the best 0 and 4 team I've ever seen. I can tell you that. Yeah. I mean, I don't disagree with the fact that they're a top 10 team, as they were in pre-season. I think they are and I think they still could be. There's a lot of season left. Them being 0 and 4 is a little bit like us being 5 and 0. It's mid-march and there's a lot of lacrosse to be played. Their season is not over by any stretch and especially so now that there is the automatic qualifier. They know that they're not out of the tournament. They've got their entire conference season to play and that bid goes to the winner of that league. So, I expect that they are going to be a very good team for the experiences they've had so far and I know they're a very talented team. It's going to be a tough game.
E-Lacrosse: You've got Syracuse who probably dropped a little two far down to #6 after losing to Hopkins who was probably a little too far down themselves at #9 to start the week. So Syracuse is probably really mad going into a match-up Saturday with #1 Princeton. Notre Dame is going to play Hofstra which is a tough match-up but one that you probably think that your team should win if you can get things going your way.
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Corrigan: Don't put words in my mouth.
E-Lacrosse: OK. But ultimately you would tell your kids you have the ability to beat Hofstra.
E-Lacrosse: OK. So, If you were to beat Hofstra and if Syracuse were to pull off a victory over Princeton, Notre Dame would be the #1 team in the country. I know you don't want to think ahead. But that would be a milestone in the game's history, not just for Notre Dame lacrosse. Any feeling of that going into that game?
Corrigan: Ah, you know, I mean that's just not really something that I should speculate on or would even care to. Like I said, it doesn't change our job. What we have to do is... we have to look at Hofstra. If everything goes well for them and everything goes their way, how do we win that game? You know? How do we find a way to beat them? That's how I look at our week and what we have to accomplish. Those other things I just don't... It's not part of my thought process for the week to be honest with you.
E-Lacrosse: But it wouldn't suck?
Corrigan: (Laugh) - I mean everybody… that's what you aspire to. That's where you're trying to go. But again, you're trying to get there at the end of the season but at any point in the season it would be a thrill. No question.
E-Lacrosse: I realize that in the middle of the season you just want to work and concentrate on the next game but perhaps the perspective isn't there right now. But, at any point, if Notre Dame were to reach #1 in the polls, a few months later looking back, it would appear to be, obviously, a huge moment. #2 right now, today, is a pretty huge moment.
Corrigan: Sure, I mean, I think it's a good thing for lacrosse. And I don't mean that in any way other than that there were some people with foresight years ago that gave a western bid at a time when there wasn't even a full-time coach in the Midwest, much less a program of any note. And, because of what they did, there have been a number of programs that have been able to build in this area and I think it has been great for this sport. I think it's great certainly for all the programs in the mid-west and I think it's wonderful that it's worked out that way. So we're thrilled that that's all going on, but again, that's on one side and right now our focus is on what's next for us and what's important now.
E-Lacrosse: And speaking of what's next, obviously you've got Hofstra next but you haven't played any of your conference games yet. Give me the short round up of what we can expect.
Corrigan: I'll be honest with you. I don't even know. I couldn't tell you a lot about what those guys are doing right now because I'm not focused on them. We've got Ohio State in 2 weeks and obviously starting Sunday we'll be looking at what they're doing. I know they've got a good team. I know they've got a better team than they have had because they've been playing a lot of young guys the last couple of years. I'm sure that they are a much improved team just from the experience that they have. And I know they've brought in good kids to that program the last couple of years. Butler has been a very good team now for a number of years. Denver came on last year and had a great season and has most of their team back so we think our league is a very good league and I know that it's going to be very challenging from here on out. And I know that Air force may be the most improved team in the league so there's still a lot of work to be done there.
E-Lacrosse: I did not know that you didn't have any scholarships at all. Is it true that you are getting them?
Corrigan: We are. Were going to get scholarships and within the next 4 years we'll be fully funded.
E-Lacrosse: A full complement of scholarships?
Corrigan: 12.6 scholarships. You can split them up any way you like.
E-Lacrosse: Michigan became a varsity club this year. Do you see them getting closer, along with teams like BYU to doing what Notre Dame has done. What is their next step, if you know? Or is it still a Title 9 issue?
Corrigan: Well, yeah. That's the big thing. I mean, the reason you've seen the growth in lacrosse you've seen at the college level has been in divisions II and III because the demographics in those schools are a little bit different and the equity issue that we're dealing with are often times different. At the division I level, it's very tough for a school to add a sport like men's lacrosse. You're adding a sport with 35-40 athletes on the male side of the ledger and most schools are not in a position to do that. So even though you see some of these club programs - BYU and Michigan and some of these schools doing great things with their club programs, I'm not sure what has to happen for them to take the next step and actually become an NCAA participant because for them to go varsity just involves a lot of different things you know. And whether it can happen at those schools or not, I'm not sure. I'd love to see it happen and they are doing a great job running their programs now at the level they are, but there's still a big difference between that and division I lacrosse.
I'll tell you what those guys do and basically what Michigan does. A guy named John Paul is the coach there and what he has to raise money for their program. Let's say they say the budget is $135,000. Well, that includes his salary. So in other words, he raises his own salary. And they have enough people who've been through the program and enough regular contributors and fundraising things that they know they're going to cover the cost of that salary and all that. So it's really not the school so much hiring the coach. You know what I mean? The program is funding itself. Those guys work hard.
E-Lacrosse: So, Title 9 accounts for the athletic budget in general, not just scholarships given?
Corrigan: It means budget in general. It also means number of participants in relation to the makeup of your student body. In other words if your student body is 50-50 male-female you're athletic department should be something similar to that.
E-Lacrosse: You have no scholarships right now today but you're still counting against Title 9.
Corrigan: Exactly. In terms of the number of athletes participating in our program and the number of dollars spent on male athletes verses female athletes and so forth.
E-Lacrosse: You guys have been around much longer than people might think. On your web site I understand that your brothers played at Notre Dame?
Corrigan: I had one brother who played here. My brother Tim played here and my brother David and my brother Brian coached here. David coached for the time that he was in law school and my brother Brian coached here for a year after he went to Washington College and before he coached at Washington and Lee University. So, yeah, it's been a number of us that have connections here.
E-Lacrosse: And how long has the team actually existed on a varsity level?
Corrigan: It became a Varsity program in 1981. I was there in 1983 as an Assistant Coach for one year and then I left. I've been here now… this is my 13th year, I think.
E-Lacrosse: You went off to Randolph Macon for a while?
Corrigan: Yeah. After '83 I went back to Randolph-Macon and coached there for 3 years.
E-Lacrosse: And you played at the University of Virginia?
E-Lacrosse: Who were your contemporaries at Virginia?
Corrigan: Well, when I first got there we had Kevin O'Shea, John Driscoll and Tony Savarese and guys like that were the seniors. And then the guys that I was in school with were the Guisto brothers (Ray and Rich), Steve Byrne, Mike Caravana, Randy Natoli, and a bunch of great, great players.
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E-Lacrosse: In the Notre Dame media guide, it said that you always wanted to be a coach. When you were growing, how did you get into it? Was it your Dad's influence?
Corrigan: Well, I mean I grew up around it. My dad was a coach when I was a kid. And then he was in athletics the rest of our lives. It was funny. I knew I wanted to coach when I was in high school but then I wasn't sure I wanted to do it when I was in college, and then when I started working camps and stuff just after college and that's when I got hooked on it. I knew I really enjoyed it. And, well… here we are.
E-Lacrosse: So, what's the best part of it?
Corrigan: There's no question the best thing about it is being around the kids. It's such a great time to be part of somebody's life. It's such a neat way to be part of somebody's life. You really start to enjoy that. I think it's a wonderful lifestyle for my family and me, even though it's probably too much time away from home sometimes with recruiting and everything. It's also a very comfortable life having the campus life be part of our lives. There are so many great things about it. My kids think that the facilities over at Notre Dame were built for their amusement, so it's a pretty good life for them too.
E-Lacrosse: Who is it that deserves the credit for the early chances Notre Dame took on lacrosse that, of course, led to so much growth in the Midwest?
Corrigan: The biggest guy that's done so much for Notre Dame Lacrosse and lacrosse in the Midwest is Rich O'Leary. You can't even count all the things he's done. He was the coach before me and got them started as a club sport. He got them organized and well coached to the point that they could be considered for varsity. Rich was an all-American at Cortland state. He played with Mike Waldvogel and Dave Urick and those guys. He was a very good coach. He's been here in our non-varsity athletic program for over thirty years or so. Intramurals and clubs are huge at Notre Dame. He's been a huge part of everything that happened in lacrosse here at Notre Dame. It wouldn't be a varsity sport without him. Moose Krause, the athletic director here, before my father, had the initial idea of taking it varsity and then my father was the AD when it happened. So those guys both had roles as well.
E-Lacrosse: Who took the bigger chance; you taking the Mid-west job or them hiring the young coach?
Corrigan: It's funny. When I took the job, they had talked to some great people. But they really weren't ready to make a full commitment to the program. I knew, from my experience here, from my family being here and my dad working here, what a great place it was and that lacrosse would succeed here. And frankly, I was 29 years old and single and could afford to take a risk. A lot of the people they talked to at the time couldn't do that. It worked out well for me and hopefully for Notre Dame, as well.
E-Lacrosse: Is there a special relationship between Loyola and Notre Dame as rivals? They've played you for many years and it seems that as they gained on a team like Syracuse and started to win some of those match-ups, you started doing the same with them.
Corrigan: We won a lot of big games before we ever beat Loyola. We beat Hofstra when they were number 4 in the country. We beat Duke in the NCAA Tournament when they were ranked number 5 in the country. Loyola smacked us around for a couple of years.
E-Lacrosse: You played close games a few times before beating Loyola, though. We could kind of see it coming.
Corrigan: We played some close games with them but they beat us up a couple of times too.
E-Lacrosse: Is there a special rivalry there?
Corrigan: I don't know that it's a special rivalry. They are one of the programs you aspire to beat. They have been 23 and 2 the last two years in the regular season. I don't think there's anyone who's done better during that period of time. They are one of the programs that anybody aims for at that time of the year.
E-Lacrosse: When the programs in the Midwest started at Ohio State, Denver and others did those guys call you to find out what's up out here before deciding to come out?
Corrigan: I've had conversations with some of those guys as they've gone through it. But boy the jobs that they've been offered were a lot different than the job that I got 13 years ago, I can tell you that. They are walking into programs that are really making a commitment to the sport right up front. I think those guys feel fortunate to get jobs at good schools that commit to lacrosse and it's an exciting time to be here in the Midwest.
E-Lacrosse: How did you get here, to number two in the country, with no scholarships?
Corrigan: There are an awful lot of kids out there who are looking for a great college experience and a chance to play top lacrosse and for whom money's not the overriding factor in their decision. We've been lucky. We've gotten great kids that way. These are kids that are all here because the want to be at Notre Dame and they want to play lacrosse at this level. They've made some sacrifices to get here. In a lot of ways we're really lucky. I feel like there's a natural selection process where the kids that want to go to Notre Dame and achieve at the level it takes to go here are willing to work a hard to accomplish things once they are here. You can't ask for better people to work with.
E-Lacrosse: Who are the guys that were stepping-stones; guys that could have gone anywhere for full rides and went to Notre Dame instead?
Corrigan: You know what. I'll say it this way. There have been a lot of guys here that people wish they'd have spent a scholarship on. But there are not a lot of guys that have turned down huge amounts of money as far as I know. You know, you'd have to ask some of them. But, I think more than that, we've gotten kids that were really good athletes and have developed into excellent lacrosse players. I still think that Mike Iorio is one of the best defensemen that I've ever seen. In fact, if we had ranked number two in the country, when he was here, he'd have been a first team all-American. We were just starting to make some noise then and people didn't know who he was, but he was a tremendous lacrosse player. Randy Collie was a great lacrosse player. Some of the guys that have gone through here, I'm sure some coaches looked back and wished they'd spent a few bucks on them. Alex Cade was another one.
E-Lacrosse: Is it getting easier now to recruit after the successes of late for Notre Dame and other Midwest colleges?
Corrigan: Any kid now that's 17 or 18 years old, in their lifetime of lacrosse consciousness, Notre Dame's in the NCAA Tournament every year and having some success and in the top 15 every year. So for those kids, they don't look at us as coming from the Midwest or this or that. They just know that Notre Dame's a good school and that we compete at the top of the game every year. They have a different perception of it than some of the people that are older and have been around for a while. They don't know all the history, just what they've seen.
E-Lacrosse: I was looking through your roster and I don't see a lot of Indiana kids.
Corrigan: (Laughs) No, we're getting them the same place that everybody else is. When we get Indiana lacrosse to a little higher level, we'll have them. I know its growing fast. I know that in Ohio and Michigan it's spreading and we have some high schools playing here now and there's a growing lacrosse scene in Indianapolis. They'll be coming here before we know it. But it doesn't happen over night.
NOTRE DAME LACROSSE COVERAGE ON E-LACROSSE
Photographs by John Strohsacker
NOTRE DAME LACROSSE PHOTOGRAPHS ON E-LACROSSE
2001 Loyola v. Notre Dame - John Strohsacker, 3/18/01
2001 Notre Dame v. Rutgers - Robert Swanson, 3/10/01
2001 Notre Dame v. Denison Scrimmage - Tom Paulius, 2/16/01
2000 NCAA Quarter-final: Hopkins v. Notre Dame - Carole Miller
2000 NCAA Quarter-final: Notre Dame v. Johns Hopkins - T.D. Paulius
2000 Notre Dame v. Villanova - T.D. Paulius
2000 Notre Dame v. Ohio State - Carole Miller
2000 Notre Dame v. Villanova - Carole Miller
2000 Notre Dame v. Army - Robert Swanson
2000 Ohio State v. Notre Dame - T.D. Paulius
2000 Loyola v. Notre Dame - Carole Miller & T.D. Paulius!
1999 NCAA Playoffs: Georgetown v. Notre Dame - Carole Miller
1999 Notre Dame v. Loyola - John Strohsacker
1999 Notre Dame v. Butler - T.D. Paulius
1999 Notre Dame v. Army - T.D. Paulius
NOTRE DAME LACROSSE RESOURCES ON THE WEB
University of Notre Dame site
University of Notre Dame Lacrosse site
2001 Notre Dame Lacrosse Outlook
2001 Notre Dame Lacrosse Roster
2001 Notre Dame Lacrosse Schedule
Notre Dame Lacrosse News
Notre Dame Lacrosse History
Coach Corrigan's Page