The 1970 lacrosse national champions ended an era.
When Johns Hopkins claimed its 35th national championship in program history in 1970, it became one of the final team to do so before lacrosse entered the NCAA umbrella. It also joined Navy and Virginia in sharing the title, the 17th and second crowns for those programs, respectively. It would be the last time a lacrosse national championship was split.
Prior to 1971, the NCAA did not administer a lacrosse national championship. Rather, the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) did, awarding the Wingate Memorial Trophy to its champ or champs beginning in 1936. Before that, college lacrosse associations picked a national champion, with the first declaration of an American collegiate lacrosse winner happening in 1881 (congratulations, Harvard!).
The 1970 Johns Hopkins squad went 9-1, culminating in a 7-4 victory over arch rival Maryland to close the campaign. It’s second-to-last showdown of the season was at Navy, and the Blue Jays delivered the Midshipmen the only blemish on their 11-1 mark. Virginia concluded its season 8-2. On April 18, it issued Hopkins its only defeat of the year, 15-8, but losses to Mt. Washington LC and Navy kept the Cavs from an undefeated year. Still, all three were named 1970 lacrosse national champions.
One team did go undefeated that season, though it wasn’t awarded a title for it. Cornell executed a perfect 11-0 record and won the Ivy outright for the third time in five years. But the Big Red were ranked No. 5 in the final poll.
“Obviously, we were extremely disappointed, because we played well all season,” Cornell men’s lacrosse head coach Richie Moran told Julie Greco of Cornell’s alumni newsletter years later. “We were hurt, because we’d had a game against Virginia that was cancelled due to bad weather. I’m not saying we would have won that game, but it would have given us an opportunity to prove ourselves against the elite of the class.”
Cornell made its statement the following season when the NCAA’s tournament determined the national champion on the field. The Big Red went 13-1 and cemented their exclamation point with a 12-6 triumph over Maryland in the national championship game at Hofstra Stadium in Hempstead, New York, the fifth in program history at that point.
After the game, Moran asked Sports Illustrated reporter Peter Carry his opinion on the outcome.
“Do you think we showed Baltimore something,” he inquired sarcastically. “Do you think they’ll rank us as high as third?”
Moran told Greco he didn’t personally use the 1970 snub as fuel for the next season, an interesting stance considering his questions in 1971, but his players did.
“Many members of the 1970 team had been juniors, and they had vowed to do everything possible to get into the championship and make amends for the voting committee,” he explained. “It wasn’t really about revenge. It was just good athletic thinking to achieve something for their teammates that they felt they deserved.”