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Keeping pace with the "Power Five"

Alumni donors help Hopkins men's lacrosse stay competitive as major college athletics programs pour more resources into the sport
Posted April 5, 2018
"To maintain the elite standards that we hold Hopkins lacrosse to, we have to find ways to compete with institutions with larger, better financed athletic departments than we do," says Blue Jays head coach Dave Pietramala, A&S '90.

With 44 national championships to its credit, Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse sits among the sport's collegiate royalty. But over the past decade or so, head coach Dave Pietramala, A&S '90, observed a distinct change in the landscape as schools from the "Power-Five" NCAA conferences — the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, ACC, and SEC — began pouring more resources into new or existing lacrosse programs.

"There was no Big Ten conference for college lacrosse until recent years," Pietramala says of the league Hopkins joined as an affiliate member in 2013. "To maintain the elite standards that we hold Hopkins lacrosse to, we have to find ways to compete with institutions with larger, better financed athletic departments than we do. We rely on our institution to step up, and we rely on the generosity of our alumni."

Two of those alumni, Ray Gordon, A&S '66, Parent '95, and university trustee Jeff Barber, A&S '95, have responded with gifts to establish the Men's Lacrosse Champions Fund. Hopkins Athletics is building an endowment to support the various aspects of the program, outside of scholarships and coaches' salaries, necessary to field a competitive team at the sport's highest level. Priorities addressed include travel, nutrition, strength and conditioning, sports psychology, and technology.

The fund enables staff like Jon Kindred, assistant athletics director for student-athlete success (center),
to support players' development off the field.

"Technology is extraordinarily costly, but it often isn't budgeted for," Pietramala says, noting that each player has an iPad for use athletically and academically. "To absorb these costs and keep up with the competition, we need generous people to contribute to the Champions Fund."

Barber supported the fund not only as a fan but because of its central role in life of Hopkins undergraduates. He knows the institution wants to attract an even more diverse, talented, and well-rounded student body. To do that, unifying experiences are critical — and few things, if any, unite Hopkins students better than the Blue Jays.

"If as an alum, you list the top five things you remember about your Hopkins undergraduate experience, one of them will involve lacrosse, either playing it or watching it," he says. "You want to make sure it's there for future generations of Hopkins students, and to do that, the program needs to be competitive."

Gordon made his gift to the Champions Fund in the name of his mother, Ellen Heiss Gordon, and to honor his family's deep ties to the program. Gordon played for the Blue Jays in the 1960s, then watched his son, Casey, A&S '95, and three nephews don the uniform in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gordon catches as many games as he can on TV from his home in Florida and adds that his son keeps tabs on the team from his home in London.

"We're all in this together, the coaches, players, and alumni," Gordon says. "This is a chance to do our part and give back."

Pietramala — who as a player led Hopkins to the 1987 national championship and an appearance in the 1988 title game — feels a deep pride in the way fellow alumni want to ensure that Blue Jays of the future have as fulfilling an experience as they had themselves.

"If I take my coach's hat off and think back to my time as a player and a student, they're the greatest times of my life," he says. "From a coach’s standpoint, I'm extraordinarily thankful our alumni care so much, and their passion is shown in their generosity."

To learn more about the Men’s Lacrosse Champions Fund or to make a gift, please contact Grant Kelly, senior associate athletic director and director of development.