Lacrosse Viewed: 36
SummaryLaunching a league
David Morrow '93 takes a shot with pro lacrosse
David Morrow '93 arrived at the first game in Major League Lacrosse history with little fanfare, handing over a ticket and passing through the turnstile just like the other 5,952 fans did June 7 at Homewood Field in Baltimore. For league cofounder Morrow and the rest of the MLL's staff and players, there were no limos to the game, no red-carpet arrivals - make no mistake, life in an upstart professional sports league is a long way from the Super Bowl.
Not that Morrow missed the significance of the moment, the unveiling of the six-team league just steps from the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. In fact, he took the time to pull out his money clip and purchase a souvenir game program once he was through the gates.
"This is really exciting," says Morrow. "When you've been working on a project like this for three years, it's pretty special to see it all come together."
Had the program hawker taken a closer look, he might have given Morrow a free copy. The cover featured a stern-faced, slick-backed Morrow, posed next to fellow owner Jake Steinfeld of "Body by Jake" fame. While Steinfeld's backing of this improbable venture - a professional venue for a sport that still lacks nationwide appeal - lends star power and an instant marketing angle, Morrow's involvement gives the MLL a more realistic, grounded quality. His presence in the young league is a logical next step for the man who has quickly become one of lacrosse's most powerful figures.
Still two years shy of his 10th reunion, Morrow is the CEO and president of Warrior Lacrosse, an equipment company he started while still an undergraduate. Warrior has become the leader in the small world of lacrosse manufacturing, outfitting the top players in the game and serving as the official equipment supplier for the U.S. Men's National Teams program and the MLL.
"When I graduated, I wasn't as focused on the business end of it - I never thought that I'd be doing what I'm doing now," says Morrow, whose company once made just the shaft of a lacrosse stick. Now Warrior provides nearly every piece of equipment necessary to play the game, along with apparel lines for the MLL and college teams it sponsors, such as Princeton.
A number of Princeton grads have helped Morrow along the way, including Brooke Coburn '93 and Bill Frist '93, who worked to secure private financing for the company, and Morrow's wife, Christine Schluter '92. In 1994 Schluter moved from Boulder, Colorado - where she was a geochemist and, at the time, Morrow's girlfriend - to join Morrow in Detroit. Though she had no accounting background, she became Warrior's controller, and now maintains the balance sheets for a $12-million company that employs 50 people in Detroit and has seen a 70 percent growth rate over the past four years, according to Morrow.
Maintaining that momentum is key to Morrow's interest in starting a professional league. "[Warrior's] future growth is going to come from the growth of the game," he says, "and the best way to attract people to the game is to let them see it at its highest level. Unlike almost any segment of the sporting goods business, lacrosse is growing, and the MLL is an important part of that."
Warrior's success attracted Steinfeld - who had been toying with the idea of buying a minor-league baseball franchise - when he read a profile of Morrow and his company in an airline magazine. Before turning his attention to bodybuilding, Steinfeld had been a midfielder for one year at Cortland State, the upstate New York school that produced Princeton coach Bill Tierney.
Morrow's playing career was far more illustrious. Despite arriving as a relatively unheralded athlete from the lacrosse outpost of Michigan, he became one of the game's greats while playing for Tierney at Princeton. NCAA player of the year in 1993, he was a two-time national defenseman of the year and a leader of Princeton's first national championship team in 1992. He also played on the world champion U.S. national teams in 1994 and 1998 before retiring.
As a player, Morrow was a feared defenseman - a persona that fit the menacing character on the MLL's first game program. But even as many of his contemporaries compete in the MLL, he is content to remain in the front office. "I have been more focused on the business side, and that has satisfied my competitive urge," Morrow says. "Coming up with new marketing ideas, new products - I've been putting so much energy into that, playing loses its novelty a bit."
Securing the league's future will definitely be a challenge. MLL officials say an average attendance of 5,000 per game should be the key to the league's success; as the end of the season neared, that number that was just below 4,000. "Like any business model, some things have been below projections, but in other markets, attendance has been higher," Morrow says. "The key is that the group is committed to long-term success."
By Nate Ewell '96
PRINCETONIANS IN THE MLL
Christian Cook �98 New Jersey Pride
Scott Conklin �95 Boston Cannons
Todd Eichelberger �97 Long Island Lizards
Jon Hess �98 New Jersey Pride
Jesse Hubbard �98 New Jersey Pride
Kurt Lunkenheimer �99 Boston Cannons
Chris Massey �98 New Jersey Pride
Ryan Mollett �01 Rochester Rattlers
Josh Sims �00 Baltimore Bayhawks
Matt Streibel �01 Bridgeport Barrage
Ben Strutt �97 Boston Cannons
Trevor Tierney �01 New Jersey Pride
Rob Torti �01 New Jersey Pride
Princeton Archives, 2001: Launching a league