Michael Crawford, Hampton University And History

(photo courtesy of Rob Ostermaier/Daily Press)

(photo courtesy of Rob Ostermaier/Daily Press)

Lacrosse is a sport that many are not familiar with. It is not seen on television much at all and you can hardly recognize many of the players that play the sport. You could say that it is one that creates a culture of exclusion more than inclusion. Statistics as current as 2013 state that 1.9% of lacrosse players in NCAA lacrosse are Black. That percentage has probably changed at this time, but not that much. But on the thirteenth of February 2016, history was made. The Hampton Pirates became the first Historically Black College or University to field a men's team at the Division One level. And although they lost 20-3 to Roberts Wesleyan, this moment was a part of history. Coach Lloyd Carter had his kids as prepared as they could have been, but in the end, they came up short on their win. But this game they played and lost in was more than just a game that was being played. It was an opportunity to open up the world of lacrosse to diversity.

Former Hampton student Michael Crawford grew up playing a lot of sports. But ultimately when he was in boarding school, he fell in love with lacrosse. He loved it so much that he created a proposal to bring that sport to Hampton University in 2010, his senior year at Hampton. Being that there really is not very much African-American representation in the sport, many felt that it would be a longshot to happen. The thought of Hampton being a lacrosse school seemed odd to many, but not to Crawford when he created his proposal. And now, we see the benefits of what he started. Unfortunately, Michael was not around to see what he helped created. Crawford passed in December 2010, three days after Christmas, unexpectedly. He had a sudden cardiac arrest caused by an enlarged heart, which there were no symptoms of at the time. And although he is not here to see it, his vision lives on. The Hampton players have MJC on their uniforms in memory of Crawford. They know that without him, the program would cease to exist.

What Crawford may have done in creating this proposal was create an alternate avenue for African-Americans. The percentages of African-Americans in the NFL were at 68% as of 2014. And with the dangers of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE, football has become a more dangerous reality some kids and their parents don’t want to subject themselves to. Lacrosse has not been a sports many African-Americans have looked at. But with Hampton starting a team, that could spark some parents to steer their kids in that direction. Hampton could be just the beginning of the movement of more African-American kids playing the sport. Of course the Hampton program is in its infancy right now. But their courageous strike in lacrosse, they could spark more programs to pop up. And if that happens, more African-American kids could become interested in the sport. With that, more diversity will come and the sport will be grow beyond what it currently is right now.

With the historic move that Hampton made to play men’s lacrosse at the Division One level, there will be plenty of eyes on them going forward. Many will watch to see if this program lasts or if it fades into oblivion. But more than that, there will be many watching to see how this team changes the game and alters the reality that some thought they knew of. Salute to the Hampton Pirates for having the courage to start a program. And salute to Michael Crawford for having a vision to start this program. He may not be here now, but Crawford has started something that has never been done before. And for that, he will never be forgotten.

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