A conversation with Phil Buttafuoco, executive director of 2008 and 2009 men’s lacrosse championships
Phil Buttafuoco, executive director of 2008 and 2009 men’s lacrosse championships, spoke before Monday's NCAA Division I tournament final between Cornell and Syracuse. Here is a partial transcript of his comments:
On the low turnout for Saturday’s semifinals: "There’s no question that people look at that finite number. I’ve been the one that’s really been on the front lines, going to all the youth events, the coaches’ clinics, camps and tournaments throughout the year. So I’ve got a real good feel for a lot of the people and where they were at with the economy taking a dive in the last eight months. Clearly, fans around the country made decisions not to come to New England. The number of people from Wisconsin, for instance, is almost half of what it was last year. The number from California and Texas and from around the country and even internationally, there are less people here from Canada than they were last year. People have made decisions based on their own personal situations, and you see that even the Preakness was down 30 percent last week. Major League baseball is off. So you’re seeing it around the country in various sporting events that attendance has been affected and for a number of different reasons. But certainly, the economy is the leading reason right now."
On the absence of a Maryland-based team contributing to the low attendance: "When you look at the two teams in Cornell and Syracuse, you’re sharing a very similar fan base. If there was another team from two different population bases, would the crowd have been different on Saturday? Potentially, it would have been. We had four teams within 50 miles from each other in upstate New York [Division I's Cornell and Syracuse, Division II's LeMoyne and Division III's Cortland]. You can’t go after different youth groups because they’re supportive of the same [teams]. So I think a Baltimore team certainly brings a different audience, whether it be Hopkins or Maryland or Towson or Navy. ... If Hofstra had won, you would’ve had a different fan base from Long Island. Or if Princeton had advanced beyond Cornell, you would have had [the] New Jersey fan base. Would that have helped us more than having Cornell here from strictly a crowd standpoint? Potentially, but you don’t know. At the end of the day, I’ve been hearing from fans across the country, and even from here, that they just could not afford to come this year from a family standpoint."
On the possibility of expansion on Division I level, which currently has 59 lacrosse programs: "The supply is certainly outgrowing the demand at the collegiate level. With the economy and Title IX, you still have two constraints that institutions need to evaluate as they consider what athletic programs they’re offering. I think you’ll continue to see Divisions II and III adding new programs."