MJ: Salisbury Is Good for Division III
It's okay to root against Salisbury. It's okay to say the Sea Gulls win because they have more resources or get better players -- even if it's not necessarily true -- if it makes you feel better when they win another title, like they did last night in impressive fashion over Tufts, 19-7. It's alright to come up with other excuses why the Eastern Shore factory has won the second-most national championships in Division III history.
But it's not okay to say that Salisbury's success is bad for the division.
The Sea Gulls' domination over the past two decades has raised the bar for everyone else and they should be applauded for what they've accomplished. Without them around, there is no benchmark for other aspiring teams to meet and, on occasion, exceed.
And Salisbury is just the macro example of a common theme in Division III lacrosse.
On the conference level, if Middlebury doesn't win seven NESCAC championships in a row, there is no standard for Tufts to meet. Without Gettysburg ruling the Centennial for years, we wouldn't have the emergent Dickinson and Haverford programs. Without Ohio Wesleyan and Denison creating higher expectations in the NCAC, there is no Wittenberg ascendency. Even in Salisbury's own conference, the CAC, the Sea Gulls have essentially laid the blueprint for Stevenson's rise.
Bringing it to an even smaller level, we can look at it seasonally. If RIT doesn't finish undefeated in the Empire 8, Nazareth doesn't have the strength to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Powerful teams, at all levels and within all timeframes, are good for Division III lacrosse and should be lauded -- quietly, if you prefer -- for what they achieve, even if you root against them.
Taking a different tack on this Salisbury appreciation tour, Tufts magical run last year is just an interesting story as opposed to the sensation it became without Jim Berkman's team playing the antagonist. If the Jumbos beat Stevenson or Roanoke -- other teams searching for their first title -- it would not have resonated as much as slaying the mighty Sea Gulls.
It's also important to remember that Salisbury did not invent this paradigm. They are just the latest model. Without the 12 consecutive national titles by Hobart to kick off the Division's existence in 1980, there is no archetype for the Sea Gulls to emulate.
It's okay to become annoyed at the sometimes insufferable Salisbury fans puffing their chests out again for another year. But be appreciative that the Sea Gulls are more than willing to wear the bulls-eye for every other team in Division III to shoot at.