Tierney’s fire benefits Denver and all of college lacrosse

Photo: DU’s Connor Donahue makes a spectacular ‘no goal’ dive in the waning seconds of DU’s 9-8 loss to Maryland. (Courtesy: Denver Post)

Emotions exploded on the sidelines at the end of the Maryland – Denver semifinal NCAA match as a last second goal was called off on a Denver crease violation. The call was correct and so was the same call on Maryland seconds earlier. Matt Brown raged at the officials and an emotionally spent Bill Tierney, who was working the officials all game long, pulled him back.

Game over, season over. The best team won.

The passion and fight that drive Bill Tierney is the same passion that has elevated a decent lacrosse program into a national lacrosse powerhouse. His energy and passion fueled the Pioneers and kept them in the Maryland game when, frankly, it should not have been that close – especially in the first half.

At the press conference following the game, Bill Tierney vented his frustration at the new dive rule, implemented this season, that eliminated goals when the shooter left their feet and fell into the crease. Tierney also railed against the lack of a shot clock as well. Ironically, his Princeton championship teams were masters of ball control and running out the clock.

So, naturally lacrosse blogs across the web exploded with comments about Tierney being a bad sport and a hot head.

Were they right?

At LetsGoDU we have always sided with the student athletes first. While Tierney is a firebrand on the sidelines, he is known as one of the most kind and genuine coaches in college sports – especially to his players. After the whistle blows, he has always been a gentleman to opponents, fans, and players. And his players love him – especially when they have moved on to their next careers.

As for the crease violation rule, his claim that ‘the dive’ is one of the most exciting plays in lacrosse is correct. At the press conference, he acknowledged that both teams lost goals on the crease violation. If the goaltender is not touched or interfered with, it is one of the most dramatic plays in the game and allowed at most other levels of lacrosse.

As for the shot clock, at LetsGoDU we just recently wrote an article on the need for one. Frankly, the current rules are unfair to both players and officials as the application of the shot clock is completely arbitrary. Knowing the culture of men’s lacrosse, the fact that the women instituted a 90 second shot clock first will probably delay the implementation of a shot clock further in the men’s game – and it shouldn’t.

The 64 year old Tierney still coaches every game like it is a championship tilt – and yes, he works the officials. Name one other successful coach that does not fight for his/her team and players. Just look at DU coaches Jim Montgomery and Jamie Franks – not exactly wooden figures behind the bench and at practices. And Peg Bradley-Doppes is no soft touch when talking about the expectations she has for her athletic department or teams.

Tierney and Brown almost willed the Crimson and Gold to a win in what was clearly not their best game of the year against an excellent Maryland squad.

Lacrosse can thank Tierney for the western growth of the game. The same fire that drives him on the sidelines is the same fire that drove him to leave Princeton after six national championships and move west to an uncertain coaching future to grow the game. The same sideline fire that his made him a legend is the same passion and care that drives him to promote the game and build lasting relationships with former players, fans, and even coaching peers. And, that same fire is a part of Matt Brown, his successor in waiting.

We couldn’t be happier with with both.