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MLL 2014 Championship Panorama

1-on-1 with MLL Commissioner Dave Gross

Jeff Brunelle interviews MLL Commissioner Dave Gross about the upcoming 2015 MLL season and future growth of the professional lacrosse league.

Use the controls above to listen or right-click here to download; ~34min

[mks_col][mks_two_thirds]About one week before the 2015 Major League Lacrosse Draft, which took place in Baltimore last Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet with MLL Commissioner Dave Gross and record a 1-on-1 interview with him. The interview, which you can listen to by clicking the play button above, features discussion about the upcoming 2015 MLL season, challenges the league has faced, and future growth of the professional field lacrosse league as a whole.

2014 MLL Championship Game Denver Outlaws vs. Rochester Rattlers
Commissioner Gross, right, presenting a check for $26,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project at the 2014 MLL Championship.

I was able to pose a wide-range of questions we here at LaxAllStars.com have had on our minds since the end of the 2014 season, and Dave answered each one openly without any hesitation – Except maybe after I asked the very first question, which was, “What color is the ball going to be this year?” Had to throw a “hard-hitter” in there to kick things off.

As the conversation gets going, we talk a lot about expansion and the league’s inner operations. So whether you’re a hardcore lacrosse enthusiast or a lacrosse-playing, fantasy-football winning pro sports freak, you’re bound to learn something interesting by listening to the interview – assuming the future of the league and its impact on our sport is of any interest to you!

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1-on-1 with the MLL Commissioner: Just The Facts

Not into podcasts? Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know from my interview with the MLL Commissioner:

The ball will be orange and grippy in 2015. Grippy is back and the orange is a new, brighter hue. Ball color has changed frequently in the MLL in years past as the league searches for the best color to offer an optimal viewing experience for fans. Stadium lighting has a major impact on ability to follow the ball during live broadcasts. The league has collaborated with an industrial lighting company to test ball colors and find the best lighting systems in the offseason.

The biggest challenge for the MLL since day one has been getting more fans to come to the games frequently and become hardcore. The league needs fans to become more emotionally invested, and Commissioner Gross says the MLL needs to do a better job of making the league accessible to everybody for that to happen.

The 2015 MLL Broadcast Schedule has been simplified this year. All 60 games will be broadcasted live and accessible in one place.

This offseason has been wild in terms of the number of MLL players retiring, and all of them had a full pro sports career. These guys were mainstays in the league and exemplified the dedication and commitment players must have in the league. The MLL is looking for ways to keep those guys like Kevin Leveille and Lee Zink involved in the league, possibly through contributions to broadcasting or getting involved with teams.

A Major League Lacrosse Hall of Fame has been voted in by owners, they are in the process of setting up the full criteria and processes, and Gross hopes to have it launched by the MLL’s 17th season. In other words, 2017.

The MLL is still hoping to add a team in Atlanta “whether it’s in ’16, ’17, or who know’s what.” They know Atlanta is going to be a great market for the MLL to be in, the community is extremely supportive, and now it is just a matter of getting it done. In order to expand to any market, the MLL has to dedicate a lot of time there. Atlanta is the focus now, and they’re focused on doing it right. Queue the Atlanta and Houston announcements on Draft night:

Today’s MLL players are incredibly talented and the talent pool is growing. Having just 8 teams in the MLL isn’t enough, and expansion will only lead to job creation for more talented lacrosse players out there.

When it comes to corporate structure, the league is a single entity (LLC) that is owned by the teams. They hire an MLL Commissioner to run the business end of the league for them. The league employs the players. When you buy a team, it isn’t a franchise… It is a “piece of the league,” or a license that gives you the right to operate a team on behalf of the league in a particular market.

Each team has a salary cap, but the league has final determination on any player’s salary. Teams recommend the salary to the league, and then the MLL sends out the contract. Players only get paid during the season.

At the end of each season, teams submit a 23-man protected list. The league doesn’t want teams to horde players and they want players to have as much opportunity as possible, so if a player is not on the protected list, they are then put into a “player pool” for the Supplemental Draft. If a player is on the protected list, they can still be traded.

The Supplemental Draft takes place in early december, which gets teams up to 35  players for training camp. To get in the league, a player must enter through the Supplemental Draft or the Collegiate Draft (which took place last week, results below). Players do not register for the college draft… they are just selected.

There are few times during the year when a trade can’t happen. Just after Week 10 through the remainder of the season. The league isn’t really involved with the trades at all until they get the paperwork to review it.

The New York Lizards / Boston Cannons trade definitely felt like a blockbuster trade to MLL Commissioner Gross. The only bigger trade he can remember was back in 2006 right before the first MLL expansion. 24 players, including Joe Walters (the No. 1 pick that year) and Brodie Merrill, moved around between 6 different teams on the eve of training camps.

Casey Powell and John Grant Jr., two of the oldest players in the league, were the most electric. Little known fact (well, at least this was news to me): 2014 was the first season Casey Powell had ever been named MLL MVP. I just figured he’d won it previously. Yes, he’s that good. Glad to hear he got his.

With so many players in the league, and so many young guys coming up, it’s difficult to prevent turnover. When the league started, 40% of players had “Wall Street” type jobs. Under 10% have them now. Guys are finding a way to make a living through the sport, which is helping them stay in the MLL longer than in the past.

But the simplest way to prevent turnover is paying the players more money. In order to do that, the MLL has to find a way to make broadcasting more profitable and sell more tickets, which will help sell more sponsorships as well.

The MLL is seeing some revenue opportunities on the broadcast front in some nontraditional ways, and they’re going to be trying to take advantage of those things in the coming years.

According to MLL Commission Gross, the whole sport needs to get bigger in order for the MLL to get to the point that it has place on ESPN or in Sports Illustrated. Lacrosse is predominantly a participatory sport right now. People need to know who the players are, and the bigger the game gets, the more it will become a spectator sport.

The MLL players are what makes the league. These guys are great human beings who deserve to become well known by fans.

The 2015 MLL Draft is full of many college lacrosse players who will likely want to play professionally in both indoor and outdoor leagues. There is so much overlap between the two leagues in 2015, than it changes the reasoning of something the teams when it comes to considering draft picks. Don’t worry, that didn’t stop Lyle Thompson from getting picked No. 1:

Don’t worry everyone, the NLL and MLL are on good terms. Dave Gross and George Daniels, Commission of the National Lacrosse League, get along just fine. The two leagues are just different and their business interests don’t really align. The NLL’s schedule has been optimized for ticket sales, and we’ve shifted the MLL schedule to fit more closely into the traditional lacrosse season. It’s just a matter of time and lot of dialogue in the future to work something out that is best for both parties and all the players involved. Time will tell!

I had the opportunity to attend the 2014 MLL Draft, so I asked Commissioner if the 2015 one would be any different. It was broadcasted live on ESPN 3 this year, whereas last season it was on the MLL’s YouTube Channel. ESPN 3 broadcasts get more views. Commissioner Gross was very excited about the talent pool in this year’s draft.

Commissioner Gross would like lacrosse fans to know that the only way our sport is going to truly reach is potential is if people involved in the sport physically attend games – at both the pro and college levels – and bring non-lacrosse friends. The crowds need to grow, and it’s up to us to make that happen!

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2015 MLL Draft Results

Here’s a look at results from the 2015 Major League Lacrosse Draft.

[mks_tabs nav=”horizontal”] [mks_tab_item title=”1st”]
Round 1
1 Florida* Lyle Thompson A Albany
2 Florida Connor Buczek M Cornell
3 Charlotte* Will Haus M Duke
4 Boston Ryan Tucker M Virginia
5 Boston* John Glesener A Army
6 Rochester* Jesse King M Ohio State
7 Rochester Jack Near M Notre Dame
8 Denver Nikko Pontrello A Loyola
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”2nd”]
Round 2
9 Charlotte^ Joey Sankey A North Carolina
10 New York^ Michael Pellegrino D Johns Hopkins
11 New York^ Ryan Walsh A Colgate
12 Boston Wells Stanwick A Johns Hopkins
13 Florida^ Chad Tutton M North Carolina
14 Chesapeake^ Erik Adamson M Denver
15 Rochester Forfeited
16 Denver Wes Berg M Denver
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”3rd”]
Round 3
17 Chesapeake** Henry Schoonmaker M Syracuse
18 Florida Joe LaCascio M Maryland
19 Chesapeake Matt Donovan M Cornel
Ohio Forfeited – From Florida through Ohio
20 New York Hakeem Lecky M Syracuse
21 Rochester Jordan Stevens D Cornell
22 Ohio Jimmy Bitter A North Carolina
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”4th”]
Round 4
23 Florida^^ Kevin Rice A Syracuse
24 Chesapeake ^^ Charlie Raffa FOGO Maryland
25 Chesapeake Collum Robinson D Stevenson
26 Charlotte ^^ Kevin Massa FOGO Bryant
27 Ohio Ryan Izzo M UMass
28 New York Matt Poillon G Lehigh
29 Rochester Randy Staats A Syracuse
30 Denver Carson Cannon D Denver
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”5th”]
Round 5
31 Charlotte Tyler German M Virginia
32 Florida Pat Frazier D Loyola
33 Chesapeake Alex Love A Hobart
34 Boston Brian Fischer D Harvard
35 Ohio Matt McMahon Pennslyvania
36 Boston *^ Joe Narella FOGO Rutgers
37 Rochester Sean Young D Syracuse
38 Denver Dan Taylor A Lehigh
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”6th”]
Round 6
39 Charlotte Ryan Belka M Drexel
40 New York Conrad Oberbeck A Yale
41 Chesapeake Tim Edwards M Canisius
Boston Forfeited
42 Ohio Brian Kormondy M Deleware
43 Chesapeake^* Conor Doyle A Notre Dame
44 Rochester Mike MacDonald A Princeton
45 Denver Michael Richards M Penn State
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”7th”]
Round 7
46 New York Mike Malave M Hofstra
47 Florida Pat Farrell D High Point
48 Denver ^^^ David Dickson M Bucknell
49 Ohio ^^^ Austin Geisler G High Point
Ohio Forfeited
50 Ohio^^^ John Reicherter M Hofstra
51 Rochester Sam Somers G Army
52 Denver Joe McCallion M Pennsylvania
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”8th”]
Round 8
53 Charlotte John Kelly D Johns Hopkins
54 Florida Casey Ikeda D Maryland
55 Chesapeake Tony Rossi M Stevenson
56 Boston T.A. Demoulas M Bentley
57 Ohio David Planning M Ohio State
58 New York Luke Mikelinich D Lehigh
59 Rochester Kyle Aquin M RIT
60 Denver Nick Ossello M Notre Dame
[/mks_tab_item] [mks_tab_item title=”Trades”]
*First Round Trades
No.1 from Charlotte
No. 3 from Chesapeake
No. 5 Ohio through Florida through Ohio
No. 6 from New York
^Second Round Trades
No. 9 from Chesapeake through Charlotte
No. 10 from Chesapeake through Florida
No. 11 from Ohio through Chesapeake
No. 13 from Ohio
No. 14 from Charlotte through Boston through New York
**Third Round Trades
No. 17 from Charlotte
No. 17 from Charlotte
No. 19 from Chesapeake
No. 20 from Boston
^^Fourth Round Trades 
No. 25 from Charlotte
No. 26 from Florida
No. 28 from Boston
*^Fifth Round Trades
No. 38 from New York
^*Sixth Round Trades
No. 46 from New York
^^^Seventh Round Trades
No. 51 from Chesapeake
No. 52 from Boston
No. 54 from New York
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