Former Notre Dame Director of Lacrosse Operations Praises Move to ACC
Kevin Dugan (right), representing Notre Dame's "Playing for Peace" initiative, receives recognition and a signature from Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, at a February 2012 event in Washington D.C.
© Notre Dame
BALTIMORE — Kevin Dugan, the former director of lacrosse operations at Notre Dame, visited US Lacrosse offices in Baltimore on Wednesday to discuss his flourishing Fields of Growth initiative, the Uganda Lacrosse Union and its "Dream 2014" campaign to send a men's lacrosse team to the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships in Denver.
It just so happened to be the same day Notre Dame announced it will leave the Big East for the ACC in all sports but football and hockey in 2013-14 — a move with significant ramifications in the college lacrosse landscape.
We could not let Dugan, who resigned in August to pursue his international lacrosse development efforts fulltime, leave without going on the record about this landmark decision.
As a former director of lacrosse operations at Notre Dame, what are the pros and cons of this conference realignment?
Some people might look at this as something that leads to a monopoly or alignment of these lacrosse powerhouses, but I look at this as an incredible thing for the game of lacrosse because I've seen firsthand the growth of the game in the Midwest and I've seen the sense of excitement that has come through Arlotta Stadium —seeing people drive five hours to watch Notre Dame play Syracuse. So when Syracuse left the Big East, that took a lot of the wind out of the sails. With the growth of the game in the Midwest, to now have Virginia, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina and Syracuse all coming through Indiana — three of those teams every year — those are three massive top-10 matchups that are going to inject excitement into the Midwest lacrosse community. That's going to do wonders for the game not just in Indiana, but also in Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and beyond.
Not to mention that the ACC tournament just got more interesting, including what ultimately will be an automatic qualifier.
Absolutely. If I'm working for ESPN and I'm trying to line up the ESPNU schedule, I would just stick to ACC games. Some people might be offended by that, but nobody wants to watch the Hopkins-Siena game. The ACC lineup and slate of matchups can basically write the script for what ESPNU's lacrosse coverage should be. It is going to be a bloodbath every week. And that's going to be the biggest change for Notre Dame. The strength of schedule that Notre Dame saw when it joined the Big East got an incredible bump. But this is a whole other level of bump. That's going to be the big challenge for Notre Dame, the mental and physical preparation that needs to go into every ACC game.
Do you think this might entice Boston College, Pitt or other new ACC schools to reignite the conversation about adding men's lacrosse?
That's a hope that I have as a lacrosse fan. I don't want to speak out of ignorance. I don't know enough about the mission and strategy of those other athletic administrations. But that as a lacrosse fan is something everyone has their fingers crossed about. You just saw Boston University add men's lacrosse. If I'm the athletic director at Boston College, it's got to be on my radar screen that lacrosse is only going to become a more popular sport. The demographics and exponential growth of the sport are undeniable. You've got to hope this helps advance the cause of the growth of the men's game at BCS-caliber institutions.
You're a former operations director. If you were in that position at Notre Dame now, would you be thinking about any headaches that come with realignment regarding travel, geography, scheduling and recruiting?
The other conferences people talked about – the Big 12 and the Big Ten—there could have been more geographical benefit for the ease of scheduling and travel commitments. But Notre Dame's got to fly to play Rutgers, Villanova and Georgetown. It's the same way they'll have to fly to play Virginia, Carolina, Duke and the rest of the schools. There's nothing but tremendous enthusiasm surrounding this move. When I talked to coach [Kevin] Corrigan [Tuesday] night, he spoke about it on a lot of different levels. Naturally, with his competitive instincts and the big picture of what this does for Notre Dame lacrosse, he couldn't be happier. But also, Coach is somebody who looks at things from the standpoint of a son of an athletic director. He looks at it as a huge benefit to what it does to the school—the faculty networking between schools like Duke and Notre Dame, or Wake Forest and Notre Dame and all the schools that are in the ACC. Academically, there's nothing comparable to the ACC other than the Ivy League. So it makes sense for all the institution athletically, but also academically.
Kevin Corrigan has ACC in his blood. He must be excited to get back to it.
The sport has grown, but Notre Dame's commitment to lacrosse has also grown. I don't think he could be any more excited about being at Notre Dame now that they have joined the ACC, with Arlotta Stadium, coming off an incredible run the last few years, just licking his chops to take that next step to winning a national championship. This is only making recruiting easier for him.
Talk about Fields of Growth and Uganda Lacrosse, considering it's now your full-time endeavor.
Fields of Growth got to the point where there were too many opportunities I wanted to pursue and was not able to pursue without doing it full time. The last three years, I've been able to grow and develop the organization to where now I have full confidence that it's an idea whose time has come. The interest is exploding. People want to intersect the passion we have for lacrosse with advancing the common good in the world. Aristotle has a powerful quote we live by at Fields of Growth: "Where your passion intersects with the world's need, there lies your vocation." I've never been more excited about what I'm doing in my life than right now — to work with some of the top college and high school lacrosse players in the country that have this relentless desire to see their lives count for something, to see their passions turned into a purpose with social impact and to be able to place them in positions to do that while growing the game, serving and helping other people.
Cornell's Rob Pannell will be the latest such player to take on the Fields of Growth initiative in Uganda. What does it means to get lacrosse players of his caliber contributing to the cause?
I'm excited about what that's going to do for Uganda lacrosse. But I'm just as excited, if not more excited, about what that's going to do for Rob Pannell. Everyone that has gone over there that has been in a position of leadership as a captain or prominent lacrosse player on their team, they've all come back better leaders. They've all come back with a more humble perspective. They've all come back with a perspective of gratitude for the health and the talent they have. From Ryan Flanagan to Chad Wiedmaier to Hannah Nielsen to John Christmas to Hilary Bowen — some big names in the lacrosse community — all of them that have gone over there have had their leadership traits grown and developed in a really special way, through the perspective of gratitude for all that they've been given. And that leads to this humble excellence that enables them to be great servant-leaders to their teams as players or coaches. That's going to show when Rob comes back this spring with Cornell. It's going to be a huge investment in his own personal growth and leadership while at the same time helping us grow and develop the Uganda Lacrosse Union and the Ugandan national team that's going to begin its selection and evaluation process while Rob's over there later this fall.