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The Tewaaraton Award: Lacrosse’s Potential Problem

The Tewaaraton is an interesting award. People love calling it the Heisman of lacrosse, and while there are some similarities, there is one huge difference: while the Heisman is based on regular season performance, the Tewaaraton factors in postseason play, and that is is precisely where things get weird.

cornell virginia lacrosse stanwick
Will Steele Stanwick repeat?

As you probably know, the committee starts off with a large list of potential winners to watch throughout the year. That list is then narrowed down to 25 nominees, and of those 25, five finalists are named before the NCAA tournament begins. So, to review, they name the finalists before the tournament, yet they heavily factor in postseason performance when choosing a winner. Basically it’s like having 25 applicants for a job, telling 20 of them that they’ll never get hired, and then scheduling their interviews.

Are we sure this is the best way for the committee to choose their player of the year? It makes sense to reduce the field to five finalists (it doesn’t seem right to drag 24 guys down to the awards ceremony and send them home empty-handed), but why not name the finalists after the tournament, or the week before the Final Four?

The way it is now, the committee always runs the risk of backing themselves into a corner and having to choose a lesser-qualified winner just because they were one of the five remaining candidates selected at the beginning of the tourney.

What if Denver had made a longer run this year?

Fortunately for the committee, certain tournament games fell their way this season, eliminating some players who could have made very strong cases for themselves. They must have been thrilled when Denver lost, for example, because Mark Matthews, who wasn’t named a finalist, scored eight goals on 14 shots this postseason before losing to Loyola in the quarterfinals.

And what about Notre Dame’s John Kemp?  Does it seem reasonable that the first-team All-American and Goalie of the Year, the national leader in both GAA and save percentage, was eliminated from winning the Tewaaraton before the postseason even began? Was there no way, no matter what happened in the tournament, that he could have been considered the player of the year? Good thing the Fighting Irish offense didn’t show up in the semis, because Kemp was saving a solid 62% of postseason shots he faced.

This is not to say Kemp or Matthews should have won the Tewaaraton, but didn’t they at least deserve the same chance to earn it as players like Mike Sawyer or Will Manny?

If postseason performance is such an important factor (and it’s a huge factor – the past ten Tewaaraton winners have all played on Memorial Day (with the exception of Hofstra’s Doug Shanahan, the first Tewaaraton winner), why bother eliminating players like these from contention before they get the biggest chance to stake their claims?

loyola lacrosse
Lusby was outstanding and won a title, but can’t win the Tewaaraton.

The Tewaaraton committee should keep a larger field of nominees and continue to consider postseason play in their decision, or else reduce the field and keep the postseason out of it, because the current system is unnecessarily risky. While they’ve been fortunate in choosing finalists who have delivered clutch postseason performances (Mike Leveille in 2008 and Steele Stanwick last year immediately come to mind), they’re bound to arbitrarily eliminate the wrong candidate at some point, and the credibility of the award will suffer as a result.