Canisius College head coach Randy Mearns is turning in his Blue and Gold for 10 days to wear the Red and White of Canada during the 2014 FIL World Championship.
Despite the change in colors, however, the Golden Griffin men’s lacrosse program will be more than represented on the sport’s largest stage. The 17-year coach and former Golden Griffin standout is set to lead one of the pre-tournament favorites during the event, which begins on Thursday, July 10 and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2, ESPNU and ESPN3.
Overall, nine Griffs are set to compete with the world’s greatest players at the championship, representing four nations. Dan Coates, Angus Dineley, Adam Jones, Jason Levesque and Matt Vinc will join Mearns on the Canadian Team, while Simon Giourmetakis will play for Germany, Travis Hill for Iroquois and Brendan Murphy for Belgium.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE GRIFFS AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP
“It’s pretty exciting to have so many former Canisius players involved at the highest level of lacrosse,” Mearns said. “I’m pumped and proud for all of our players and I know that our alums and current Griffs are all pulling for them.”
Mearns has the Canisius Blue and Gold in his blood. A member of the program’s first recruiting class, Mearns has been a part of the team in 21 of its 25 years as a player, assistant coach or head coach. He arrived in the program’s infancy and has helped build the Golden Griffin name to new heights during his tenure.
With nine former student-athletes now competing at the sport’s premier event, Mearns believes it is just the beginning signs of a program on the rise.
“It’s exciting from a Canisius perspective when you look at the quantity and quality of the individuals representing the program’s name at the championship. We have graduates that can play on the world stage and this is a great thing for Canisius. It is something that we can continue to build off because we do have really talented players that go here.
“But now we’re finding that we can finally attract enough of them. As the MAAC strategic plan is starting to kick in, the resources that we will have available moving forward is huge. We’ve always been able to attract some of the world’s top players but now, for the first time, we are able to get more of them. The players competing at this championship have helped get the Canisius name out there are they’re proving to be a great foundation moving forward for us.”
It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Canisius name will be heard numerous times throughout the championship among the likes of other perennial powers Cornell Denver, Duke and Syracuse.
“This championship is going to be a platform that is going to continue to make lacrosse explode globally. Just to be a part of something like this is a pretty amazing experience. Since lacrosse isn’t in the Olympics right now, this is our sport’s biggest stage. It can only help get the Canisius name a little more recognition in the lacrosse community. The more that name gets said on the ESPN platform, that puts our institution on the national stage and nothing bad comes from that.”
Mearns is no stranger at the national level. The veteran coach was able to get his first experience as a player at the 1998 World Championship held in Baltimore, where Canisius finished with a silver medal. Mearns then served as an assistant coach as the Canadians claimed gold in 2006 and again finished as runner up in 2010.
The Canisius mentor is looking to draw on his past experiences to once again lead his native country to the top.
“The last time the world championship was in the United States, I was one of the captains for Team Canada. We were losing 11-1 going into the third but we fought back before losing in double overtime, 15-14. I then had a great opportunity in 2006 to serve as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator as we won gold. It was an amazing experience because we were able to put a lot of the pieces together to win the championship. We tried a similar formula in 2010 but came up just short.”
And while Mearns will look to duplicate the team’s 2006 success, he’ll have plenty of fans that proudly wear the Blue and Gold cheering him on.
“We have so many alums and friends of the Griffs cheering us on in Denver,” Mearns said. “I just recently received a text from an alum that is American and he told me he is pulling for Team Canada because of the Griffs connection. That comes from being a part of the Canisius family and the bond you build with your college teammates. We see how strong those bonds are right now and how proud alums are to seeing their school represented on the national stage.”
After leading the Griffs to the program’s first two MAAC Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances during his collegiate career on the sidelines, Mearns is looking to build off that excitement from a Canisius standpoint and not only another championship this month but another big prize in the future.
“At the end of the day, I want to win a national championship at Canisius too,” Mearns said. “This is a big and exciting time – not only for myself and our players – but this is a big opportunity to put Canisius on center stage for at least two weeks. We are going to do everything possible to make sure our name gets out there positively and we can build off the success of all our alums – and not just the Canadians – from this championship.”