For this Fireside Chat, I got to sit down with the three Captains of Morgan State Club Lacrosse Team and talk MSU Bears lax. Morgan State is an historically black college in Maryland, and the school has a long history with the sport. Morgan State offered D1 lacrosse back in the 70s and early 80s and Kyle Harrison’s father played there. He also wrote a book called “Ten Bears”, which is a must read for any lacrosse addict. For now, let’s check in with Morgan State and see how things are looking for 2012!
We’re talking with Vance Brinkley, Robert Hickey III aka Tre and Mike Whalen.
Morgan State has a longstanding history with lacrosse. Did this help draw you to the school? What were some of the other reasons you chose to attend Morgan State?
Mike: I was actually supposed to go play for Hood College under Curt Foxx, but after some issues at home I decided to stay home and attend Morgan. I didn’t know about the lax history there until the football coach took me on a mini tour and showed my some pictures. I started reading and asking questions and found out that my coach for summer ball with BlaxLax, Lloyd Carter, had played for Morgan back when it was still an NCAA team. He got me connected with the team, and it’s been my family since.
Vance: Lacrosse was not the reason why I attended the school. Truthfully, Morgan State was a last minute decision for me, but I wanted to attend college badly and get way from home, so Morgan was the perfect place for me to get away. I actually tripped into the sport while I was wrestling, but I loved a lot of the relationships and experiences while I was at Morgan (also how enjoyable playing lacrosse was to me), so I ended up staying. The vibe at Morgan is pretty chill during the day, which is a time when students are more prestigious, but the nights at the school can get pretty interesting. It is times like homecoming or “I Love Morgan Week” that makes you love being here.
Tre: Actually no, when I applied to Morgan state I had no clue I would still have the opportunity to play collegiate athletics. I was accepted to Bentley University in Massachusetts, but due to my family’s finances I knew for certain I would not be able to pay the schools tuition approximately two weeks before I was scheduled to leave Baltimore. Making the best out of an unfortunate situation, I applied to Morgan state. Both of my parents attended Morgan, and believing I was destined to remain in Baltimore, I thought an education at Morgan would enable me to still be a part of and give back to the Baltimore city community.
What was your 2011 lacrosse season like? How did you guys do?
Tre: Our 2011 season was… difficult… for lack of a better term. Most of the members who started the team 5 years ago were long graduated so our numbers were stripped to the bare minimum. It was not uncommon for us to play teams like Maryland and Navy (who had a bench of 40 players on their club team) without any subs. Needless to say, I was in excellent shape that season.
What are the goals for 2012?
Mike: The goals for 2012 are to win, flat out. I don’t like losing, no one on my team does. We want Morgan State Lacrosse to mean something again.
As you look further down the road, what are the goals for the Morgan State Program in general?
Vance: Our goal is to become a more legit team on campus. I believe that if we are seen as a legitimate program on campus (which means that we can utilize the facilities that the NCAA athletes at Morgan use), there would be a lot more students trying to join our team. What makes it even harder for us is getting equipment for the players. Year after year new players feel discouraged because they can not afford equipment. A majority of the students who are interested usually ask me “did you become an NCAA team yet?” and I have to say “no”. It’s sad to see that happen, but then again it tells me who really want to join to play and who just wants to be called a Morgan State Lacrosse player.
Tre: We have had conferences with the current President about making lacrosse at Morgan an NCAA recognized sport. Our largest obstacle is Title 9, which requires equal athletic opportunity for males and females at state colleges. However, other competing HBCUs, such as Coppin and Hampton, have made initiatives to bring lacrosse to their schools. I would hope that within the next 5 years, inspired by either Morgan’s leadership, or competing HBCUs, lacrosse will be a competitive sport within the MEAC conference (and I know we would be MUCH MORE exciting than our football team!).
How can you guys set the tone to achieve the goals you have set?
Thus far, the leadership has taken some new steps that have brought the team much closer together. We started the year with two a day practices, bringing the team back to high school locker room comraderie, and we’ve made it our purpose to be well known around campus through various promotion activities. Vance has done a FABULOUS job with promotion, he just can not keep his loud mouth shut.
MSU is a Maryland state school. So are most of the kids on the team from Maryland?
Mike: We have a lot of guys from Maryland, but we have guys from as far North as New York, and as far West as California. We’re a diverse team and that’s what makes it such a family. When you’re away at school, you always have your team with you.
Is there a lot of interaction with the alumni? Do you have an alumni game each year?
Mike: There is only a little Alumni interaction. We have been working on trying to start an alumni event with teams like Howard, but we find it hard to even get stadium time on our own campus. It almost makes us feel more like a team because of the lack of support we have. I have been in talks with Kyle Harrison to possibly get his father to come to one of our events. It would be an honor to meet a legend like that.
Vance: Somewhat. My first year playing for Morgan, I saw Lloyd Carter and a few other players from when Morgan had D1 lacrosse. Unfortunately, it was only every blue moon we would see them around. Our club team alumni usually drops in every now and then to see how the team is going. I still talk to one of the players, who is all the way in California! It’s very hard to talk with past players because usually they are working and trying to continue on with their lives, but some usually come back. We don’t have alumni games, but sometimes we have past players come to teach the new guys a thing or two.
How is the current relationship with the school’s administration structured?
Tre: Currently, we are a club organization, so we have typical club rules and regulations. We have one lady on the activities board who is always in our corner, but for the most part, we rely on ourselves. We found our own money, carpool ourselves, by our jerseys, sticks, everything.
Mike: I try to not get too much into the Politics. The Club President, Tre, handles most of that. But while we don’t get much support, this year we do have our own goals on a grass lot, and really when you’re laxing, what else do you need?
What does the team do to give back to the community?
Vance: Currently, we hold an annual lacrosse clinic with the Coast Guard, which usually ends with a scrimmage against them. We are currently trying to find out more ways that we can do community service. Whether it is with different organizations on Morgan’s Campus, or if it is just us, we want to make it happen.
Do people on campus know about the lacrosse program now? If not, what can you do to change that?
Tre: I would say A LOT more people know about Morgan State Lacrosse now, through Vance’s videos and me spending all
summer and fall on campus carrying around a stick, and approaching new freshmen about the team, we are definitely a presence on campus, and one that is growing.
What has been your best moment so far as a Morgan State Lacrosse player?
Tre: My favorite moment was my first game with Morgan’s lacrosse club, when we played against Johns Hopkins’ Club and I scored my first goal on their game field, it was epic.
Vance: Off the field, it has been the connections and relationships that I have made with players from different teams. I also feel like I am a part of a movement to expand the sport of lacrosse, and it seems like it is working! As a defensive pole, I’d have to say it was my first hit. I remember we were playing American U Club, and their X-attackman tried to come around the crease for a shot. I hit the boy so hard, it looked like his pride was hurt after. I love lacrosse!
Mike: My best moment is yet to come. I’ve been working hard to become a better player, and the team has been working hard to become a better unit. I’m excited for what is to come. I want to be remembered as a Morgan State Lacrosse player; In order to do that, you’ve got to make those memories.