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Syracuse Lacrosse: Dom Starsia's Departure Sets a New Tone

With Virginia announcing that it would not renew Coach Dom Starsia's contract, the college lacrosse world enters uncharted territory.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It was reported on Tuesday by Inside Lacrosse that the Virginia Cavaliers Head Coach Dom Starsia will not return to UVA. Starsia won four National Championships in Charlottesville, VA, and finishes with a 274-103 record at UVA. The Cavaliers last won a title in 2011, but have not won an ACC game since April 26, 2014 and have not won an ACC regular season game since beating Syracuse on March 1, 2014. Just as eye raising, the Cavaliers have two losing seasons since that 2011 Championship run.



Lost in NCAA Quarterfinals



Did not make NCAAT



Lost in NCAA First Round



Lost in NCAA First Round



Did not make NCAAT

If we were to rank the top, active, NCAA lacrosse coaches based on resumes, I would certainly give Starsia consideration to be in that top five. While he had a tough couple of years recently, he is easily one of the best in the nation.

We heard rumblings that this was on the way a few weeks ago, but nothing was confirmed until this week.

Our friends over at Streaking The Lawn put together a quick look at who could replace Starsia. Right now there seven coaching vacancies at the D1 level: Binghamton, Vermont, Virginia, Princeton, UMBC, Jacksonville, and Hartford. Obviously, UVA and Princeton are the most attractive jobs available right now.

It will be very interesting to see not only who Virginia hires, but what the recruiting repercussions will be with this move. Currently, UVA has the number one senior and junior recruits and the number two sophomore recruit in the nation committed. Take a look, that is a loaded 2017 incoming class.



High School


Dox Aitken


Haverford School (PA)

#1 Senior

Mitch Gordon


St. Paul's (MD)

#20 Senior

Jared Conners


Pittsford (NY)

#27 Senior

Milan Murray


Thayer Academy (MA)

#37 Senior

Matt Moore


Garnett Valley (PA)

#1 Junior

Alex Rode


St. Paul's (MD)

#3 Junior

Will Rock


Gonzaga (DC)

#6 Junior

Ian Laviano


Cold Spring Harbor (NY)

#12 Junior

Grayson Sallade


Manheim Township (PA)

#2 Sophomore

Ross Pridemore


McCallie (TN)

#10 Sophomore

Cade Saustad


Highland Park (TX)

#19 Sophomore

Andrew Russell


Victor (NY)

Sophomore Watch list

While John Desko is in a much different position, the release of Starsia does not help Desko's status. I think Eamon McAnaney put it best:

I would think that Desko has a lot more leeway at the moment, especially given that the Orange have only missed the NCAA Tournament once in the Desko era. Personally, I think you keep Desko, pretty much no matter what. I think getting rid of him would be disastrous, and I've been pretty vocal about that.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that the Syracuse fan base has grown restless over the last few years. Some of that is due to Desko's demeanor on the sideline with his calm demeanor drawing the ire of certain parts of the fan base while another part of it is simply a lack of Championships and SU's overall performance in the Tournament since 2009. First Round losses to Army and Bryant certainly did not help. I have to think that those who wanted Starsia out and those that want Desko out have a similar narrative: the game has passed them by.

With Syracuse in the midst of a search for its next Athletic Director, it is anyone's guess how Desko will be treated. Mark Coyle seemed to be ok with letting lacrosse run itself, although that could have been him focusing on his job search. The new AD will be coming in somewhat hamstrung. Dino Babers has yet to coach a game so you pretty much have to give him at least a few years, and on the basketball side, a successor to Jim Boeheim has already been chosen. Therefore, a new AD looking to make his or her mark can either reverse one of Coyle's decisions, which doesn't seem likely, focus on the Carrier Dome renovations, or make a splash with the third biggest sport at Syracuse, lacrosse. I still think it is a long shot that Desko's job is in jeopardy, but I can definitely imagine a new AD coming in with a strong directive to get back to the National Championship game. That kind of directive has a lot more power behind it at a place like Syracuse where Gary Gait sits in the wings.

However you feel about the Syracuse Head Coach, I think we can all agree that a very clear message has been sent in the lacrosse world. As the college game gets more competitive and gains more exposure, I think this is the first step of college lacrosse embracing that "win now" mentality that has completely enveloped college football and basketball. In years past, programs took a lot of pride in long-tenured coaches. While you hear a lot of NCAA football coaches talk about a family, lacrosse has been the men's sport that truly exuded that theme with coaches who are more teachers and mentors than anything else. Don't believe me? Ask the Syracuse lacrosse alumni.

Dom Starsia won a National Championship in 2011. He had some of the best recruits in the nation coming down the pipeline. Yet following his third losing season since becoming the head coach in 1993, Starsia's contract went un-renewed.

Good luck Coach Desko, because your five National Championships and 223 wins have just been put on notice.

The Syracuse Orange travel to Providence, RI to take on the Maryland Terrapins in the Quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament. Faceoff is scheduled for noon on Saturday and the game can be seen on ESPNU. Of course you can also follow me @OrangeLax for updates.