Long Island native Rodney Dumpson exploded into lacrosse prominence as a key member of Syracuse University’s powerhouse program, which won the 1988, 1989, and 1990* NCAA championships. Now residing in London, Dumpson recently took the time to meet with Rick Govel to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.
Lacrosse is experiencing rapid international growth, including in England. Have you had the chance to check out any lacrosse since you’ve been here, and have you considered coaching or consulting with any of the local clubs?
RD: Where I live in London would be the equivalent of Greenwich Village in Manhattan. I see plenty of kids with lacrosse sticks here, which was quite shocking to me. In regards to coaching, I definitely would consider doing it. I’ve actually made a few phone calls to former teammates – Brook Chase and Matt Palumb, who was my goalie, to reach out to Coach Simmons to see if he still has his contacts from when we toured the UK in tribute to the Pan Am Flight 103 victims. So it’s definitely something I would consider doing.
You were at Syracuse during an incredible era for SU athletics- the lacrosse team won three consecutive NCAA championships; the football team featured Rob Moore, Darryl “Moose” Johnston, and other future NFL stars; and the basketball team boasted Derrick Coleman, Billy Owens, and Sherman Douglas. How much did the athletes from these different high profile teams interact with each other, and how did you all get along with each other?
RD: I was best man in Rob Moore’s wedding, and was also in Derrick Coleman’s wedding party so the answer to that question is pretty obvious. Outside of my immediate friends, the school was on such a high then all the teams rooted for each other – there was no animosity. If you think about it, Don McPherson was the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, so that gave our school incredible notoriety. Then you have Derrick Coleman who was so good we thought he was going to leave after his freshman year, and the lacrosse team was winning national championships. It just boosted the morale of the university and really made us a unique institution.
With the football and basketball teams stocked with future NFL and NBA players, was it satisfying that the lacrosse team was the only one to win an NCAA championship during that era?
RD: We didn’t really look at it that way. When you think of Tennessee you think of the Lady Vols. It’s the same with UConn basketball. Although the UConn men have won championships, they are really known for the women’s team. With Syracuse lacrosse in those days in your four years you were pretty much guaranteed one national championship, and in my case it happened to be three. Just like the women who go to UConn now, they will pretty much win two or three, if not four championships. There was no animosity – everyone was happy for each other, but I do like the fact that I did win three and I can rub it in Rob and Derrick’s faces a little bit!
How much do you stay in touch with teammates from the SU lacrosse team?
RD: I stay in touch with Greg Burns, Brook Chase, Gary Gait and other teammates. Winning a championship isn’t just about ability. It’s about camaraderie. When I have an open shot, and I see a guy who could potentially be a little more open than me if he’s not a friend of mine, I’m more likely to shoot it – that’s human nature, but we all wanted to see each other shine and that is what made us so successful.
SU’s 1990 lacrosse championship was later vacated by the NCAA due to infractions. In your opinion, did the removal of that championship change the legacy of the team at all?
RD: Not at all. In fact I think it enhanced it because it brought attention to the sport. Everyone knows what the score was, and what team was what. It didn’t tarnish it one bit.
If you took your SU team in its’ prime, and played in this year’s NCAA Lacrosse championship tournament, what would the result be?
RD: Of course I’m biased, but consider the equipment that we used then compared to what is used now. Nowadays, putting lacrosse gloves on is like putting on ski gloves – they are so maneuverable, and you can do anything with today’s sticks and the ball doesn’t come out. Players from the 60’s and 70’s might say the same thing looking at the equipment we played with, but look at the goals that were scored by our team with that equipment, and the rules that were subsequently changed as the result.
That team – with Gary and Paul Gait’s abilities, and the host of other great players who were there- Greg Burns who was attackman of the year, Pat McCabe who was defenseman of the year, Tom Marechek who a year later was attackman of the year – we wouldn’t just beat current teams, we would dominate them. We were big, athletic guys, and we all got along with each other. In our prime we would definitely beat today’s teams.
An 8th grader recently verbally committed to the SU Women’s Lacrosse team, coached by your teammate, lacrosse legend Gary Gait. As a former D1 athlete and as a parent what are your thoughts on early recruiting?
RD: Tuition at Syracuse alone is in the mid-sixty thousands a year. My daughter is a product of Syracuse University as I met my wife there. If someone were to offer a free education that young, I simply would look at it as a business opportunity. It’s an opportunity to go to a school, one less problem, and one less bill I would have to pay. Again, I’m a little biased as I’m a Syracuse guy and my wife is a Syracuse girl, but I don’t have a problem with it. If someone is going to offer a half million dollar education, that young, then so be it.
Video: Rodney Dumpson scores against Johns Hopkins with the assist from midfield line mate Paul Gait in the 1989 NCAA championship game.