Syracuse's Rogers "at a crossroads"
When Insidelacrosse.com reported on the head coaching vacancies at Denver and Dartmouth earlier this month, several candidates for the positions were mentioned. The one name that came up for both Denver and Dartmouth was Lelan Rogers.
Rogers is the defensive coordinator for reigning national champion Syracuse, poised to become the first repeat champion since Princeton won three straight between 1996 and 1998. Rogers, who has head coaching experience with Division III programs Cortland and Ohio Wesleyan and Major Lacrosse League’s Chicago Machine, sounded conflicted about being a candidate for the Division I head coaching positions.
"Being a Division I head coach has always been a goal of mine, and I’ve always been a goal-oriented person," Rogers said earlier on Wednesday. "So to be honest with you, if it was the right situation, I would investigate it. On the other side of it, I’m as happy as you-know-what, and working here with the staff at Syracuse has been great. I could stay here forever, and my kids could grow up in central New York. I’m at a crossroads. I could go this way or I could go that way. I’ll cross that road when it happens, but right now, I’m in the best place in the world. It’d be a hard decision to leave, that’s for sure."
Rogers compiled a 76-17 record in five seasons at Cortland. But after the 2005 season, he was approached by Orange head coach John Desko to become the school’s director of lacrosse operations, which suited Rogers as he sought to diversify his resume with an eye on eventually becoming an athletic director.
The irony is that Rogers has suddenly become a Division I candidate not because of his overall career record of 185-50 at the Division III level, but because of his work with Syracuse’s defense. That may speak to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately culture, but it also sheds a light on the trepidation Division I schools may have about hiring Division III coaches.
There were five Division I coaching vacancies last year and three were filled by Division I assistant coaches (Ohio State promoted the Buckeyes’ Nick Myers, Fairfield hired Maryland’s Andrew Copelan, and Marist secured Brown’s Scott Nelson), one by a Division I head coach (North Carolina wooed Ohio State’s Joe Breschi) and one by a Division II coach (Hobart hired Limestone’s T.W. Johnson).
From his perspective, Rogers thinks the gulf between Division I and Division III lacrosse has widened and the days of Division I powers hiring Division III head coaches are fading.
"Years ago when I first started coaching at Ohio Wesleyan [in 1991], Dave Urick went from Hobart to Georgetown, Mike Pressler went from Ohio Wesleyan to Duke, and at that time lacrosse was still young enough that they would take very good Division III coach and move him up the ladder to Division I," Rogers said. "I don’t see that happening anymore. I think there are some great Division III coaches and I think they work extremely hard. But I think the difference between Division I and Division III is so much greater now that’s it’s really hard to be sold on a Division III guy and bring him into a Division I atmosphere. The recruiting is distinctly different, the rules and all that stuff."