By Nelson Coffin
Rob Scherr was already having a bad day when his cell phone rang. The Johns Hopkins goalie was stuck in heavy traffic midway between Annapolis and Baltimore after working at a camp in June and lamenting the fact that things couldn't get much worse. He was tired. It was hot. And I-97 was clogged, making the Second-Team All-America selection miserable. "It was horrible," Scherr remembered. Yet what Scherr was about to find out would compound his misery ten times over.
Put yourself in Scherr's shoes. You've just completed your best season at an elite level, despite a bitter ending in the Division I championship game when Virginia shocked the world by upending the top-seeded Blue Jays, 9-7 at M&T Bank Stadium. You're an All-American with time left to make amends for the setback. You have one more season on a team loaded with veteran talent to become the first Hopkins goalie since Quint Kessenich to walk off the field next Memorial Day a champion. You are already 11th on the all-time saves list in school history with 309 and a veritable lock to move past Dr. Les Mathews (320), Geoff Berlin (332), Scott Giardinia (353) and Brian Holman (432). With a big season, you will challenge All-Time Johns Hopkins Team member Larry Quinn for sixth place.
And then the damn phone rings and your world is tossed upside down like some adolescent thrill seeker on a cheap ride at a boardwalk amusement park. All it took was four little words and Scherr was suddenly on the outside looking in. His collegiate career was over. "Coach (Dave) Pietramala gave me the news," said Scherr glumly. "All he said was, 'You didn't get it.' That just capped off my day. I was pretty upset. I didn't even see it coming. That was a rough way to hear it."
Rob with Neal Goldman on the E-Lacrosse Summer Team
Scherr had every right to be ticked off after essentially getting kicked in the teeth by an NCAA rule that is as preposterous as it is petty. Here's the deal. Scherr lost an entire year of eligibility because he played in 20 minutes - Pietramala said it was 15, even though he was not the coach at the time - of a scrimmage at the Lacrosse for Leukemia Classic in the fall of 1999. Yep, fall ball counts, according to the NCAA. Never mind that in the fall scores don't matter and statistics are meaningless. The "games" are glorified practices, yet they are counted against an athlete's five-years-to-play-four window to compete on an intercollegiate level. "I'm extremely disappointed," said Pietramala. "But mostly I'm disappointed for Rob Scherr. We applied for a waiver and then we appealed the decision. We thought there were mitigating circumstances and I guess they didn't think there were."
Pietramala was as frustrated as his goalie with the situation. "I was not the coach at the time," he said. "He had talked to the previous staff (current North Carolina Coach John Haus) about redshirting if he didn't play (in the spring)." Scherr believed he would be allowed to play all four years, seeing as how he never entered a game for as much as a second during the real season in the spring of 2000 with Brian Carcaterra between the pipes. "Everybody always said I should redshirt," said Scherr. Then he was foolishly asked to enter that one scrimmage, which he did, of course, without even imagining the impact it would have on his future. "It was kind of tucked away and not talked about," said Scherr. "I guess in the minds of the coaches it wasn't going to be a problem." Which is different from the mind-set of the NCAA. "We were on Rob Scherr's side," said Johns Hopkins Compliance Officer Josh MacArthur. "We tried everything we could within the rules. We applied for a waiver and then we appealed it. But, ultimately, a contest against outside competition is considered a contest."
Scherr had a huge game in the NCAA Final, losing 9-7 to UVA
With that door closed, another opened. Scherr caught on briefly with Bridgeport of the Major Lacrosse League. The Barrage had been getting bombarded when Scherr was brought on during the season to lend his expertise to what was becoming a desperate situation. And things were ripe for his MLL debut until the fellow rookie goalie in front of him, New York Tech's Matt Hunter, started to sizzle. Scherr was on the bench when Hunter was getting rocked. He remained there after the NYIT keeper caught fire.
"The first five shots it was like Matt didn't react at all," Scherr recalled. "But after that he played out of his mind. He was stopping everything."
Rob in the net for E-Lacrosse
Scherr only dressed for that one game. However, he still hopes to catch on with an MLL team - preferably the hometown Bayhawks - next summer. "At least I can say I was a professional athlete," Scherr laughed. "Not many guys can say that." He has a couple of other gigs in the interim, including selling for Rebel Wear while he finishes off his last couple of credits at Hopkins. Scherr will also become an assistant on the Blue Jays' staff. "I want to get a ring," he said. "I've won a championship at every other level (rec ball and high school at Baltimore's McDonogh School). So I want to get one in college, too." Presumably, the NCAA will not interfere this time.
UPDATE: While Scherr was coaching fall ball at Johns Hopkins, the gears were working in the back rooms of the MLL. Evidently, a hall of fame keeper wanted to be closer to home for the last years of his brilliant career and Coach Gary Gait sent Greg Cattrano home (close enough) to Bridgeport for the first draft pick next Summer and the rights to Rob Scherr. Gait had the opportunity to shoot on Scherr at a clinic over the Summer and like his responsiveness. He'll get a few more opportunities to see Scherr before he spends that draft pick, but we may see Rob back home in Baltimore on Homewood Field in a Bayhawks uniform next Summer.