- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2012

As much as anything, Georgetown’s hire of Dave Urick as its men’s lacrosse coach more than two decades ago was an indication the school was willing to commit to the sport.

Which direction it goes in replacing Urick will say just as much about the Hoyas’ investment in perhaps their most high-profile spring sport.

Urick announced his retirement July 13, setting off a search likely to conclude sometime in the coming weeks. In some ways, it’s a gem of a job: Great location, good school and a program not far removed from 11 straight NCAA tournament appearances.

“I’m not real interested in looking over anybody’s shoulder and trying to micromanage what they do,” said Urick, who will serve as a special assistant to the athletic director. “Whoever they choose, they’ll do it their way and put a stamp on it. Hopefully, there’s a foundation to build off. I think there is.”

Indeed, the Hoyas were a lacrosse nonentity until Urick took over after winning 10 Division III titles at Hobart in the 1980s. They gradually raised their profile, reaching their first NCAA tournament in 1997 and appearing in the final four in 1999. Eventually, Georgetown became known for its close-but-not-quite seasons, including six straight quarterfinal losses from 2002 through ‘07.

Yet despite several well-regarded recruiting classes in the middle of the last decade, Georgetown missed the postseason the past five years. The Hoyas didn’t earn a spot in the inaugural Big East tournament this spring, needing wins over Syracuse and Rutgers at the end of the regular season to avoid a losing record.

“I think when Urick took the program over, they were an outside-the-top-20 program with a lot of potential,” ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said. “They raised the program to where they could be a perennial quarterfinalist and a one-time semifinalist. Since that point they’ve kind of regressed to the 20-to-30 range.”

Of late, the brick-and-mortar disparity between the Hoyas and other notable programs has also become more pronounced. The 2,500-seat Multi-Sport Field is a bit rough around the edges but does provide an intimate venue in the middle of campus. There is not the same upside to the Hoyas’ locker room.

“It’s a race and a lot of our recruits overlap with Duke and Notre Dame and the Ivy League,” said Urick, who was 223-99 in 23 seasons at Georgetown. “When you recruit young men who are 17, 18 years old, they’re impressed with that facility aspect and it becomes part of the overall picture.”

Little wonder one of the few things Urick seems certain he will do in his new job is fundraise for a new locker room. He is optimistic the school’s proposed athletics center will provide a needed boost.

Nonetheless, that building is a future element (construction has not started), which means a new coach initially will face the same issues as Urick.

“While others have ramped up overcall commitment to weight rooms, strength and conditioning, meals, travel and locker rooms, I think Georgetown has lagged a bit,” Kessenich said. “Other schools don’t share locker rooms with the football teams. That affects their training a little. I just think they can improve their level of commitment and professionalism in a lot of small details.”

Whoever is hired will inherit a senior class that combined for 88 starts last spring, when the Hoyas went 7-6; no rising sophomores or juniors started a game. Georgetown also has endured something of a lost summer from a recruiting standpoint; Urick retired, and assistant Matt Kerwick is no longer employed at the school. Only assistant Scott Urick, Dave’s son, remains on staff.

But it’s also easy to see what a new coach would tout to recruits, regardless of how soon facility upgrades are complete, and that alone could prove alluring enough to help the Hoyas to return to tournament contention.

“I do believe it’s a top-15 job based on what they can be in lacrosse,” Kessenich said. “I like their stadium. I like their game field. The education at Georgetown is arguably as good as that at any in college lacrosse. There’s a tremendous amount of pluses.”

• Patrick Stevens can be reached at pstevens@washingtontimes.com.

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