President’s Message: Celebrating Victory, Fr. Ridley’s Legacy
July 23, 2012
One of my favorite memories of the day our men’s lacrosse team won the national championship—the first NCAA Division I Championship in University history—happened outside the gaze of the cameras that captured the victory and spoke volumes about the character of the young men who triumphed that day. There, on the field, as they cried, laughed, hugged, and cut up the nets to seize souvenirs of an unforgettable moment in Loyola history, the Gillette Stadium staff began trying to move the players off the field to prepare for the next event.
Then one of our players spotted some children standing behind a gate at the other end, waiting to meet them. He said, “Hey, the kids are over here!”
Our Greyhounds picked up balls to sign and went over to see the children who had been waiting. They remembered their fans, these young people who had supported them all season long—and who may one day take their place on the field. And that gesture meant almost as much to me as the victory itself.
Amidst the elation, the joy, and the sense of achievement, another Greyhounds’ lacrosse fan came to mind—my predecessor, Rev. Harold “Hap” Ridley, S.J., who passed away in 2005.
That much-deserved victory, which the players, Coach Charley Toomey, ’90, and so many people here at Loyola worked tirelessly to achieve, was one Fr. Ridley helped poise the University to win a decade ago.
I was a Loyola trustee when we made the decision to build a state-of-the-art athletic complex. Because of the complexity and cost, the decision to move forward with creating what would become the Ridley Athletic Complex was huge.
Yet Fr. Ridley made an extremely compelling case. He believed that, because of our history and because we live in a region where the sport is practically a religion, lacrosse was most likely to bring us to athletic prominence. Fr. Ridley believed Loyola could and would one day make its mark with lacrosse, gaining national recognition, but the program was hampered by its facilities.
As we discussed the possibilities, we talked with Fr. Ridley and other campus leaders about how an athletic complex off campus would be a game changer. With that facility, we could hold larger postseason events and put Loyola on the map.
It was a bold plan. It was a risk. And the other trustees and I felt it was a brilliant idea.
It was no surprise that our men’s lacrosse team won the national championship. The surprise was that the victory, the elevation to national prominence, happened so quickly. Even as the trustees voted unanimously to create that athletic complex, we never thought a national championship would happen during only the third lacrosse season there.
What is it about the Ridley Athletic Complex that changes the experience for our students? I remember speaking with Alex Peaty, ’09, M.A. ’11, when he was a student and Greyhounds goalie. I asked him, “Is it really all that different?” He said, “Oh, Father, it is really big time. Walking in those locker rooms and out onto that field, you feel like a professional. You feel motivated at the highest level.”
When you have gifted young student-athletes and skilled coaches guiding them, competing in the best facilities, they find success.
We would not have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter here if we didn’t have a world-class library. We would not have an NCAA championship trophy if we didn’t have Ridley. These investments made by people who believe in the future of Loyola University Maryland have made a huge difference for our students.
This was Fr. Ridley’s vision, and he would have loved watching our Greyhounds team perform at the highest level. And he would have been proud, not just of the team’s athletic success, but also of those young men who—in a moment when you could be excused for focusing only on yourself, your teammates, your coach, and your family—remembered to acknowledge their fans.