We celebrate Notre Dame lacrosse in this blog and I have had the good fortune to meet a number of ND lax alumni over the years. This story from TD Paulius celebrates the 50th anniversary of ND lacrosse. TD is one such alumni, a great supporter of the program, frequently on the field with camera in hand, and like us a parent of a current ND student. My apologies in the delay in running the story to coincide with the exact anniversary. Too many games, too much travel in the spring. Still a good read:
March 24, 2014 is 50 years from the first ND intercollegiate lacrosse game, an 11-6 win over Colorado State in Ft Collins. The second intercollegiate game was played on March 26, 1964 in Boulder, a 9-8 edging of Colorado. It was the most memorable victory of the start-up program, as explained in the following.
Notre Dame first played lacrosse on an intramural basis in 1895 and 1896. Observer (student newspaper) records in the following years are silent.
The genesis of the current team began in the spring of 1963, when a senior from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Jack Tate, was lying in his bed off campus in a home on Angela, when the notion to bring lacrosse to Notre Dame popped into his head. Jack was an athlete who had lettered in high school in football, basketball and baseball and tried out for football at Notre Dame. A shoulder injury ended any hopes of making the team, so he joined the fencing team and won a monogram, but for some reason Jack wanted something more and lacrosse was that “more.”
Jack spent the next few months writing various collegiate coaches at Ohio State, Johns Hopkins and the Military Academy for advice. They all responded and a portion of the response from West Point coach, Jim Adams, was particularly noteworthy, “Colonel E. S. Adams (the AD at the Point) was very enthused about your letter since the Military Academy is most anxious to compete with our old and friendly rival in as many sports as possible.”
Posters were circulated to develop student interest and 55 students came out for that first team that fall. The roster was populated with students from out east which gave the Irish a basis, but also many athletes who had never picked up a stick before. With nicknames such as “Bandage, Bearcat, Boomer, Camel, Chipmunk, Frog, Mouse, Ots, Spin and Stork, Notre Dame Lacrosse was born. Jack served as a player-coach that year with assistance from Prof. Harry Saxe of the Civil Engineering Department who had played collegiate lacrosse at CCNY and MIT, who helped Jack with preparing a budget and coaching. With Saxe’s assistance, Jack applied for and received a charter from the Student Senate and the University for a Notre Dame Lacrosse Club on 1 November 1963.
Jack was a defensemen, and he was possessed of that odd trait common to long sticks – he was very headstrong and quite often refused to take “no” as an answer. That character trait led him to schedule 10 games for the 1964 season as well as host the Notre Dame Invitational Lacrosse Tournament. He often would agree to commitments without consulting the team.
The most memorable win for the first Fighting Irish lacrosse team had to have been their second game of the season against Colorado. Jack had decided on a spring trip to open the inaugural season in 1964, playing Colorado State on Tuesday, March 24 in Ft. Collins and then traveling to Boulder to play the Buffaloes of the University of Colorado. CSU was also in its inaugural season that year and the Irish prevailed 11-6 in 12 degree weather.
Two days later, the Irish were to play Colorado on Thursday. Wednesday saw a 5 hour blizzard that covered the field with 3-4 feet of snow. It was a wet and heavy snow so the players were unable to clear the field by themselves. The captain of the Colorado team told Jack they could get the field plowed, but it would cost $350, and was Notre Dame willing to pay half? Jack’s response, out of earshot from the team was epic, “LOSER PAYS!” That may not seem much, but that $350 was equivalent to $2,600.66 in 2014!
Jack of course didn’t tell his teammates until the start of the game. The entire team had no more than $75 among them so it was a must win situation against a Colorado club team that had been playing for at least three prior years. Jack obviously took the phrase of the fight song, “what though the odds, be great or small” too literally. He finally told the team in the pre face-off huddle. Notre Dame relied upon a fast break offense as the Colorado defenders were slow and the Irish eked out a 9-8 victory. Jim Salscheider (Mankato, MN) scored four goals and Tom Moran (Wethersfield, CT) scored twice for the Irish. In goal, Billy, the “Camel”, Joseph made 20 saves. Joseph held the season save record of 245 saves from 1966 until it was broken by Al Pinado in 1980, the last year of the club program at Notre Dame, who garnered 252 saves, a record that appears to be still standing.
LOSER PAYS, what a way to start a program!