Editor's note: Each week, 2005 Tewaaraton winner, four-time Major League Lacrosse All-Star and current LXM pro player Kyle Harrison and former Virginia All-American, Major League Lacrosse All-Star and current LXM pro player Brett Hughes will use this space to debate college lacrosse's biggest storylines.
1. Where is the toughest place to play?
Hughes: Toughest I've played at: Denver, because of altitude and long flight. Syracuse is tough to play at, but it's also one of my all-time favorite places to play. I watch Stony Brook and it seems like that's a pretty wild environment. I've heard that can be rough. Virginia has fans right on the field, and its nice weather means nutty fans ready to chirp. I'd also be foolish not to say Ohio State's Horseshoe -- that one game a year the Buckeyes get to play on that field. It's such a special place, and the fans come out in packs!
Harrison: That's a tough one, because "tough" can mean a number of different things. From the environment to the actual field to the team to the weather in that area, and so on. But for argument's sake, I'll say the toughest overall place to play would have to be the Carrier Dome. From the terrible drive up from Baltimore to the crazy (in a good way) fans they have, to how talented Cuse always is -- that place is tough to go in and grab a W. But, as an athlete, those are the games you love! I got to play there my sophomore and senior years and loved every minute of it.
2. What is the best rivalry game in the sport?
Hughes: Well, I have to say Syracuse-Virginia. It's the most fun to watch, and honestly, it was easily the most fun game to play. I also loved hearing about Johns Hopkins-Maryland; those games always seemed nuts because they are both powerful teams in such close proximity.
Harrison: I agree, Hughey, Syracuse-Virginia is certainly a game that the entire lacrosse world looks forward to, myself included. But, I've got to go with Hopkins-Maryland for my favorite rivalry game. I got to play in the 100th anniversary game of Maryland-Hopkins my junior year of college, and outside of the Final Fours and the two national championship games I got to play in, that was the most exciting environment I've ever played in. You can throw records out the window whenever these two teams meet, and it will always be an emotional, hard-hitting game, and that's what makes it the best rivalry in the sport. But as I mentioned, UVa-Cuse is right there next to it.
3. If you were a coach, would you give up a home game to play in a bigger venue on a national stage?
Hughes: It depends what "home" is. I think if you play at Syracuse, Hopkins, Virginia, Maryland or Denver (and there are a handful of others), it's harder to give up that home field. But for most other schools, that is such a fun environment, you end up not losing much. For most schools, I think it's a no-brainer, and for coaches who think they will play in the tournament, it's good to get neutral-field experience.
Harrison: Tough call! There are so many different things that go into making a decision to give up your home field to play in a professional venue on a national stage. For the sport, it's a great thing, as it brings more national attention, but playing at home in most cases is certainly an advantage. There's no place on earth I'd rather play a game than Homewood Field, just like I'm sure Cuse cats would want to play in the Dome rather than a professional venue if given the choice. It also depends on the opponent. If it's a huge rivalry game, playing at home is certainly a huge advantage and one that most coaches wouldn't be willing to give up. But if it's an early-season game and a lesser opponent, maybe coaches would be more likely to want to give the professional venue a try to help grow the game.
4. What do you think about tournament expansion in lacrosse?
Hughes: Army's upset of Syracuse notwithstanding, it's not often that one of the top four seeds is upset in the first or second rounds. But another round of high-stakes lacrosse on TV could do nothing but help the sport and give more schools a chance to attract big recruits. I don't think expanding makes it any better as far as talent, but I do think it gives us more intense lacrosse to watch! Go for it!
Harrison: Agreed, Hughey, vary rarely in our sport does a low seed knock down a 1-4 seed. And adding a weekend of high-level lacrosse only would help the sport continue its growth and give lacrosse fans one more weekend of great lacrosse to watch. I'm all for it.
5. What are your thoughts on the speed of the game -- and the suggestions for improvement?
Hughes: I am 100 percent in favor of a shot clock, but I don't like taking away the faceoff. It's such a huge part of the game. I love watching faceoff specialists and amazing wing play become a factor. As long as they have to shoot the ball within a certain amount of time, keep the faceoff. Then again, I played on a team that was up-tempo and wanted to get up and down the field and make plays. There would be an even higher demand for quality lacrosse players who are athletes between the lines as transition offense and defense, as well as middies who can stay on the field.
Harrison: Not loving the idea of agreeing with you so much, but I completely agree with your answer. I'm not in favor of getting rid of the faceoff as it's become such an important and exciting part of the game. Over the past few years, we've seen dominant faceoff men completely control the game for their teams, and it would be a shame to take away that piece of the game. I am definitely in favor of putting a shot clock in place. It's got to happen! From the 30-40 seconds it can take for teams to sub guys in the game, to a slow invert offense where a team tries to eat five minutes off the clock, the game slows down too much. We've got so many great athletes playing this sport, let's have them getting up and down the field more!