A casual conversation between Corona del Mar head coach G.W. Mix and Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan a few years back led to the creation of the Pacific Coast Shootout, a neutral-site clash of NCAA Division I lacrosse powers in front of an enthusiastic crowd at Orange Coast College.
Notre Dame met Denver in the inaugural event in 2014, and Maryland faced North Carolina last spring. Now Mix and his team are preparing for the third annual Pacific Coast Shootout, scheduled for Saturday, March 5, 2016, with Notre Dame taking on Maryland. Tickets are on sale now.
Recently, Mix provided a peek behind the curtain at the origins of the PCS, what goes into hosting the event and where big-time lacrosse in SoCal goes from here:
How did the first Pacific Coast Shootout come about?
Mix: Kevin Corrigan and I have known each other for a long time. My son Ryan played in two Final Fours for him (2011-14). We were talking during the summer between Ryan’s junior and senior year, and he mentioned how he had two big games at home during Notre Dame’s spring break — Denver on the front end and Virginia on the back end. We talked about moving their home game with Denver to Orange County. If I agreed to pay for the teams’ travel expenses (airfare, hotels, meals and buses), they would move the game. For Billy (Bill Tierney) it was easy. It’s early March — do we play Notre Dame at a neutral site in Southern California, or play in South Bend, Indiana? Not a tough decision.
Is it hard convincing teams to come to California for a neutral-site game?
Mix: At the end of the day, the event has to make sense for a team to pack up and come all the way out here to play a critical game. It is, however, a good time of the season to get guys to consider coming. The weather is extremely unpredictable in early March along the East Coast. The Shootout offers them an opportunity to practice and play a big game in much better weather than they would have at home. Many schools have their spring break during the first part of the lacrosse season, and quite a few share the same spring break dates, so they are not missing classes and can make the long trip more tolerable by spreading it out over a few days. They are able to play in front of a crowd that is larger than any regular-season game they will play at home. Two years ago, we had nearly 6,000 fans at OCC. Last year almost 7,000 for Maryland and Carolina. That’s a great environment in which to play.
What do the teams get out of it, besides SoCal in March?
Mix: Playing another top-five team, in Southern California, in front of 6,000-7,000 fans, is certainly a big part of the draw. These guys realize there is great value in taking your team off campus and doing something very few other programs in the country get to do. The Pacific Coast Shootout is not just a game, its an experience. We go to great lengths to make the entire trip memorable for the kids and the coaches. That’s where the real value is — getting away from the routine environment at home and using the unique opportunities the Shootout provides to develop good team chemistry early that will make a difference in May. I’d be willing to bet Kevin, Billy and Tills (Maryland coach John Tillman) would all agree that it’s not just a coincidence that Shootout teams end up in the Final Four.
How much of a factor in getting teams out here is your personal relationships with the coaches?
Mix: It is certainly a part of it. They take my calls. I think now it is becoming more of the Shootout’s reputation than just our friendship. Bob Shillinglaw, the Delaware coach, called last summer about us helping them to play a game out here. At the time, given the teams we were already in discussions with, we didn’t think that match-up made sense for the Shootout, but his call was a clear indication the word is spreading among the Division I coaches about the Shootout and its reputation as a well-managed, unique college lacrosse experience.
How much does it cost to run the Pacific Coast Shootout?
Mix: The Shootout expenses are significant, and it’s a challenge to make it all work financially. To get the top teams to come out here, we agree to pay for the majority of their trip. We cover airfare for 110 people (55 per team), 50 hotel rooms for 3-5 days, 3 meals a day for both teams — and most of these guys are not interested in a couple of tacos or a salad.
It is a very big investment. I think it’s easy for people to look at the thousands of fans in the stands and figure that the event is generating good revenue, but what they don’t realize that the ticket revenue doesn’t even fully cover the teams’ travel expenses. In addition to travel, we have facility costs, insurance, staffing, marketing and other expenses to cover. Fortunately, we have some great sponsors and a number of private Shootout Patrons that support the event as well.
In order for us to continue our mission of bringing the best teams to the West Coast, we need the Southern California lacrosse community to continue to support the event. Buy tickets, bring your friends and teammates, and enjoy the best college lacrosse you can see without getting on an airplane.
What have you learned from the first two events?
Mix: What we have learned is that our lacrosse community cares. They see the value in having Denver, Notre Dame, Maryland and North Carolina play in their backyard. I believed in the power of this event from the beginning, but had no idea if anybody else agreed with me. What we have seen over the past two years is they do agree and are genuinely excited to be a part of it.
What is the long-term goal?
Mix: The goal of the Shootout remains the same — to use the event as a showcase to promote the growth and development of lacrosse on the West Coast. What that growth and development will look like in 10 years is hard to predict. There are so many prohibitive factors to mens lacrosse being adopted by Division I schools with football. Travel expenses are a big part of that. A number of schools would have to take the leap at the same time to keep scheduling issues and travel costs down. The same goes for the MLL. It is very expensive to fly teams around the country.
The Shootout’s mission is not just about exposing our kids to the top teams, but also exposing the top teams to what is happening in West Coast lacrosse. They see the 7,000 fans in the stands and it really impresses them. They begin paying closer attention to our high school programs and start to realize we have kids who can play. Denver, Maryland, Notre Dame and UNC all have a number of California kids on their rosters.
In three years, we have built a reputable event that provides a valuable service to all of its participants. It all appears to be working the way we had hoped it would. The best teams in the country are interested in playing in the Shootout because they see the value. The fans understand what it means to have Division I Final Four teams come here to play. They know it’s great lacrosse and seem to appreciate that we are willing to make it easier for them to see it in person.