It’s strange when “Syracuse lacrosse” and “dominant” (or some other synonym) aren’t used in the same sentence these days. Since 1983, the Orangemen have won 11 National Championships, produced a pair of Tewaaraton Trophy winners and have seen 12 players become four-time All-Americans.
Yet, there exists a time when the Orangemen were underdogs in the lacrosse world. Before 1983, SU had last won a national championship in 1925 (to put that in prospective, F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby that year) and in the 1982 season, the Orangemen had gone 6-4, losing to a pair of Division II teams while missing the tournament completely.
But that all changed in 1983.
Led by Brad Kotz, the Orangemen went 13-1, and was No. 1 for a stretch of the season before earning the No. 2 seed for the tournament. Syracuse advanced to the championship, where they shocked heavily favored Johns Hopkins, 17-16, overcoming a 12-5 second half deficit. Kotz scored all five of his goals in the second half and won tournament MVP honors, as the Orangemen took its first step in becoming a Goliath in the NCAA.
“Going into that game, we didn’t have a lot of pressure on us,” Kotz said. “The second half, everyone came out fired up and it was a very tight game. Everyone was like, ‘Let’s go get this.’ The emotions were on the surface and everyone was feeling the same thing. The second half, we got a little momentum and we rode it.”
In retrospect, it has been dubbed “A Season That Changed The Game.”
But, even after Syracuse had won the national championship, the lacrosse world wasn’t sure what to make of the Orangemen. Were they a flash in the pan or was it the beginning of a new dynasty?
“My knowledge of Division I lacrosse back then centered around the fact that UNC and Hopkins were the two teams to beat,” Kotz said. “We had a lot to prove to the world. I definitely didn’t think that Syracuse would go on that run that it did going forward. We were just riding high. After the game, I didn’t think any of us had the prospective in mind that it was going to set the tone for the next 30 years.”
And yet, that’s exactly what happened. Kotz would lead his team back to two more NCAA Finals before Syracuse won again in 1988.
By SU’s second title run, Kotz had graduated Syracuse with a biology degree and was pursuing his interest in business.
“I had an opportunity to coach lacrosse, I had a few local job opportunities, and then I had a real estate opportunity in Virginia where they were looking for someone to come down and help,” Kotz said. “It was snowing when I left Syracuse and it was 70 and sunny when I got down to Dulles airport. It didn’t take much from there, I guess.”
While he was working in Virginia, Kotz continued to play lacrosse.
“There weren’t a whole lot of New Yorkers down in the Maryland area,” Kotz said. “What was really great when I showed up and started playing Maryland club lacrosse, there were half a dozen guys that played on those Johns Hopkins teams we played. It was all like we were part of the same family, which is the beauty of lacrosse. Everyone was welcoming and we all treated each other as teammates. It’s a fraternal sport.”
After two years in Virginia, Kotz attended the University of Pennsylvania to get his MBA. He became a fixture in the lacrosse scene there, playing professionally for the Philadelphia Wings of the Major Indoor Lacrosse League.
He won two championships with the Wings and led the league in scoring in 1989. (He would also play for the U.S. team in 1986 and 1990 and was selected to the All-World team in 1990 before being inducted in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2001.)
Kotz again found himself playing alongside many of the players he competed against in college. And, again, everyone was welcoming.
“The indoor league was a lot of fun, especially in the Philadelphia market where it was accepted so readily and so thoroughly,” Kotz said. “It was a hockey town and this was so much like it. It wasn’t just a sellout, it was a raucous sell out.”
When he wasn’t studying or playing for the Wings, Kotz was an assistant coach at Penn under Tony Seaman, helping guide the Quakers to the 1988 Ivy League Title. Penn ended up playing Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in one of the most unique games of Kotz’s career.
“It was an interesting feeling for sure,” he said. “It was difficult to be on the Penn sideline, but by the same token, it was sweet inside that we lost to Syracuse and not another team.”
After his time at Penn, Kotz teammed with a friend from the Wharton School to begin developing real estate.
“Originally, we were buying distressed or undervalued property and creating value in them by redeveloping them,” Kotz said. “Now, we’ve turned more toward development opportunities.”
Kotz is now a Principal of Seneca Property, Inc. and has developed or redeveloped over 1.3 million square feet of retail, office and industrial projects over the past 25 years. Kotz is currently in the first phase of developing a residential community.
But Kotz always finds time to give back to the lacrosse fraternity that has given him so much, including coaching his two daughters, both of whom play lacrosse.
“It’s a great community,” Kotz said. “Some of the greatest highlights in my life happened with my biggest competitors in college. I felt that way when I was playing in Maryland and the same thing happened in Worlds. In my mind, it’s a special sport in that regard. I see that in my daughters, and I coach their teams. I see them enjoying the camaraderie that comes with the sport.”