Former Syracuse Orange midfielder Jovan Miller is one of more than 140 players that are joining the brand new Premier Lacrosse League, which launches in June. Miller, along with fellow former Orange alums Steven Brooks, John Galloway, John Lade, JoJo Marasco, Brandon Mullins, Kevin Rice, Sergio Salcido, and Joel White, were all formerly with Major League Lacrosse until the announcement last month.
In an interview on my College Crosse podcast Across College Lacrosse, Miller went into depth about how the league came to be and why he chose to be a part of the PLL rather than sign with a team in Major League Lacrosse, where nearly all of the players came from.
But don’t expect him to play for long. Miller has other ideas for the future, but wants to be involved in the growth of the league.
“I’m not crazy about being in the league a crazy amount of time at this point,” Miller said. “I’ve moved on and ventured into other things that I’m absolutely in love with. So playing the game as much as I love doing it, I do love the backend of it more. Mine was more or less to really be somewhat of a disciple if you will of talking about the PLL afterwards, being a player rep.”
Miller said his dream path is to be behind the scenes. After he becomes a pioneer in the league by playing, he then wants to help up and coming players with the ins and outs of how the league works.
The league was an idea that came from Paul Rabil, one of the biggest names in lacrosse today. According to Miller, the possibly idea of a new league was a long time coming and heard that Rabil was on a business venture that other players would probably be interested in. Miller said that Rabil would spend time in the back of the bus for all star games and discuss how business works and business ideas such as equity, which was something he introduced to players in the PLL.
The 2011 graduate was also in contact with Kyle Harrison, one of his very close friends. Miller’s contract with the MLL’s Atlanta Blaze wasn’t exercised this offseason since he was working on obtaining his Masters degree at Loughborough University in London as a part of the Lacrosse The Pond program. That made him a free agent, and available to play in the new league.
With notable differences between the PLL and the MLL, Miller has an objective view on why people are split on the opinion of having two professional lacrosse leagues. But he thinks the arrival of the PLL is a great thing for the sport.
“As being one of the pioneers of this new gig and this whole new experience, it has been a whirlwind,” Miller said.
Miller expressed some frustration with how the MLL operated while playing in the league. To him and to others, it didn’t feel professional, and money was a big reason for it. Miller described average player salaries as “not out of the 10s of thousands.”
“There’s a lot of guys who adore the game,” Miller stated. “They are incredibly invested in the sport, whether that be in the youth level all the way up to the collegiate level. To spread that message of ‘when you are great, you should be paid great,’ you should be appreciated at a high level as well.”
The league has been known to mess up spelling names and their broadcast partners not know how to properly say last names. Miller even pointed out his online bio had the wrong birthday listed for an entire season.
“They are the best in the world, and they didn’t feel like the best of the world,” Miller said. “We just felt like it was a glorified summer league. I don’t feel like we felt like we were professionals, we didn’t feel like the best in the world and I think that Paul obviously got fed up with it and it just took the right wrong great player to be fed up with how the league was going and do something about it. Paul was that guy.
“It’s not the best league. But when you are very serious about training, you expect that the people on the backend that help you to do what you do are taking their job as seriously as you take yours. I think that was a huge void for the players, especially these players in particular. They were so good.
“It’s so important for us to kind of lay the foundation for the next generation of kids so that they understand how professionalism is supposed to work, and logistically how the backend of a contract and all of that stuff works.”
A big difference that Miller thinks will benefit the PLL with their media deal with NBC is that players with lesser notoriety will be highlighted as well. He also hopes fans and others alike get a chance to see what many of these players do in their free time.
“I think that the stars sell,” Miller said. “You’re always going to first identify with people that you know. I think the PLL will do a great job of giving the players opportunities to get in front of people that are non-lacrosse related. I think that’s so important for the growth of the game.”
In addition to the PLL, Miller discussed being back on the Syracuse campus. He recently returned back to Syracuse and now working for the university in community engagement. He misses a few things about the campus, especially Cosmo’s on Marshall Street. He preferred that over Varsity and it was always his go-to place for breakfast.
Miller isn’t a big fan of the amount of apartments that are being build around the area either.
“It’s looking more of like a business rather than a campus,” Miller said.
While he works at Syracuse, he also gets to spend some time working out inside Manley Field House, where he sees members of the men’s lacrosse team nearly every day.
Although saying he’s done with coaching after spending three years as an assistant coach at Division II Queens University of Charlotte, Miller’s been in contact with some of the midfielders on the team as a mentor. Most notably the trio of Tucker Dordevic, Jamie Trimboli, and Brendan Curry, which could be the starting midfield come February. He sees this year’s team as an incredibly talented bunch, yet one that is really young. And the only way to strengthen the gap between talent and youth is through experience during games.
But Miller also thinks some of the players are thinking more of how to honor those before them rather than play for their current teammates.
“It’s really difficult to watch how they are going only because I feel like they’re focusing on the wrong thing,” Miller said. “I think they’re so hellbent on making all of the guys who came before them proud, maybe they’re not playing for each other. The lineage is what it is. It’s Syracuse University. We understand it’s got a huge history, especially with successful lacrosse. And I know that they want to be a part of the turnaround and everything, but there is such a thing as trying too hard. And I think that maybe that’s where they are.”
With the college lacrosse landscape changing, Miller thinks the program isn’t sitting on top of the world and that Duke has replaced the Orange for that role. The program that was once built off of dominance and even arrogance has diminished in recent years.
“We can’t live off our legacy for too much longer,” Miller said. “I feel like we’re almost the equivalent of the Yankees. We have all of these national championships, but when’s the last time we won? You can’t live off the past for too long, and I think that in our case until we get back to some final fours consistently or at least challenge for a national championship, you might hear more of the same.”
You can listen to the entire podcast below.