The Sultan of Salisbury

The Sultan of Salisbury

The Sultan of Salisbury

The Sultan of Salisbury

Salisbury has ruled the ranks of Division III men’s lacrosse for more than a decade. Jim Berkman is the man who built this empire. His Gulls continue to cruise towards their fourth straight championship, seventh overall. LAX talked to Berkman about his program’s consistent crop of talent, his expectations, and if he has crossed over to the Dark Side.

LAX: How much of the talent on your team is homegrown Maryland talent?
That’s one of the keys we’ve always been successful with. We’ve always had a pretty good mix of kids. At one time in the mid nineties, the team that won 47 games in the row, I think there were eight kids from New York who were starters. We’ve had a lot of Philadelphia kids, that’s been a nice pipeline for us. It’s a good mixture of everything. There’s a couple of key instate kids, a couple Long Island kids, and now we’re finally getting the fruits of some of the people and myself who started lacrosse here 10 or 12 years again, local kids. Two of our best middies are two local kids, Michael Hurley and my son Kylor Berkman. It’s our first reaping the rewards of starting youth lacrosse 10 or 12 years ago.

How do you guys continually get such top talent on the team every year?
I think that’s a big misconception. I think we get some good players, but a lot of kids that we get, that end up being really good, like Justin Smith, Jeff Bigas, Sean White, some of those guys, they were great, they got World Team tryouts, but you know Hopkins and Maryland weren’t knocking their doors down. They got better here; they improved. Eric Martin, two schools recruited him, us and Hampden-Sydney. He starts indoor and out door pro now. He’s one of the best defensemen in the league. He didn’t even start his freshman year. He got better; he improved. I think that’s one of the keys to our success, people improve here. I mean we get good players. We’re looking for fast guys that maybe are missing a niche, why they’re not DI? Because maybe they’re not quite as skilled, their lacrosse IQ’s not that good, and hopefully we give them that IQ, hopefully we give them some of those stick skills that they need, and in a year hopefully they catch up to some of those guys.

What would you consider a prototypical Salisbury lacrosse player?
Obviously speed, but we have some attackmen that aren’t very fast but are awfully good. I think stick skills; I think kids sticks get a lot better here. Everyone says, ‘you’re kids just move the ball unbelievable. I’ve never seen kids at all positions that handle the ball at midfield. It’s like your playing with nine attackmen all the time with your two midfield lines because they move the ball so well. I think stick skills and improving those stick skills while they are here is one thing that we definitely harp upon, and develop and look for. Then speed. We’re pretty fast in the midfield this year; we’ve definitely got some kids that can run.

Every year do you expect your squad to be at the Final Four?
I don’t know if it is my expectation. I think it is more their expectation. The bar has been set here by the players. To me, just realizing our potential, having guys get better, that is my goal every season, but for the players here, if they don’t get to the championship game, they don’t feel it’s been a successful season.

How important to your success has having that depth been?
To play our style of defense, guard you when you get off the bus, and to score goals and get the ball up and down the field, you’ve gotta play with depth and you’ve got to have it to practice and to play hard and to get better and improve, and you’ve got to have it when someone goes down. If someone goes down you’ve got to have that guy ready to step up so you can keep playing. You think about over the time that I’ve been here, every year there’s been a major kid that goes down and we’re able to keep it going.

How do you guys attract that DI level talent in both recruits and transfers?
Again I think that has something to do with the kids we’re recruiting. We recruit a lot of those kids and we lose a lot of them, but in the same token I always leave that door open when they decide to go there that if it doesn’t work out, we were your second choice. You loved it here even though it wasn’t DI, but you wanted to go play DI. If it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would don’t be hesitant to call me. Sometimes that kid calls me.

Like the Yankees, you guys are sometimes called the “Evil Empire” of Division III. If Salisbury is part of the “Dark Side,” would that make you Darth Vader?
I don’t’ know about that. I don’t know if that is my personality. We try to do all the right things day in and day out. We do all the right things here as far as being students first and being the best lacrosse players that we can be second.

What did you think when we had you guys ranked at #2 whereas everyone else had you at #1 in the beginning of the season, or do you not notice that stuff?
I don’t think it was any big deal. I think our players kind of resented it a little bit, because of the streak that we had, nobody’s beaten you, 85 out of 90 coaches voted you #1, but yet a magazine votes you #2. Maybe that was a good motivator for them to prove you wrong, but I don’t watch the polls. I couldn’t care less. Everyday we try to get better and improve, and if they do the things that we’re expected to do we’re probably going to win more games than we are going to lose.

Do you guys do a lot of game planning for every team, or is it more just trying to play the Salisbury game and seeing how that matches up?
We’re not reinventing the wheel for any opponent, but we’re definitely making the adjustments within what we do defensively and what maybe their weaknesses are offensively to attack those things or to match-up against those things and take away their strengths. We’re not going to change what we do totally for any opponent, but in the same token the little nuances that we do within our schemes I think enhances our chances for success.

If you want to read the rest of this article, check out this month's (April 2006) issue of LAX.

Post A Comment To This Story >

Salisbury DI?
    by (#64197) on 4/26/06 @2:42PM
They could definitely be a ranked D1 team. So why don't they make the move?
Reply to this

salisbury going d1?
    by (#93833) on 4/26/06 @3:27PM
Berkman talks about the possibility of him or his programming moving to DI in the portion of the interview that will run in the magazine.
Reply to this

Definitely Huh?
    by (#91671) on 4/26/06 @4:41PM
Why does this topic always have to come up, they would NOT definitely be ranked. A team called Hobart ruled D3 a lot longer than SU and they barely get in the top 25 year in year out. There is no way they could handle a top D1 schedule every week. They are a great D3 team let the D1 dream go.
Reply to this

They would fair better than Hobart
    by (#40548) on 4/26/06 @5:15PM
The reason I say this is cause they would be able to draw better players to a warmer Eastern Shore of MD, 30 min from Ocean City, rather a snowy ass Northern New York that might collect drift snow in Early November and Late February. Even though the town of Salisbury is a bit of a hole, the school is quickly doubling in size, they have decent field facilities for the lax team and the girls are pretty nice there as well, but every school has a bunch hotties so that is beyond the point. Salisbury does scrimmage top D1 schools before the season, I believe they beat Duke last year and Hofstra this year. I know the "only scrimmage crap", but if your #2 in D1 you should be able to run over any D3 school at any time. Salisbury isn't going to go D1, but they would be able to hang alot easier than hobart. Just think, if you want to go somewhere cold and play lax you go to Syracuse if your worth a lick, if not your going South, thats why there are more dominant teams south of the Mason Dixon.
Reply to this

Not for nothing
    by (#64197) on 4/26/06 @5:23PM
But I heard they beat Duke in a Scrimage last year. Now a scrimage is a scrimage and I don't know who played how many minutes but still....Duke is Duke and lost in the finals of D1 last year. Are you saying you wouldn't like to see them play D1. I would they've owned D3, why not take a shot. They would fair a lot better then the teams that came into D1 in the past 2 years....St Johns, Bellermine, Robert Morris?
Reply to this

Forget about D1
    by (#104143) on 4/26/06 @7:18PM
First place recruiting, if you are a decent D1 prospect in the maryland are would you go to Salisbury or Maryland, Hopkins, Towson, Virginia, North Carolina or Duke if they still have a program next year common lets be serious, Look at Hobart now they are competing with Syracuse etc for good prospects, schools like Hobart, St. John's, Butler, Bellarmine will always be in the lower D1, because the pool of good players are still not big enough.
Forget abou Scrimage I saw thw Duke Salisbury scrimage and it was a joke.
Right now if the current Gulls team go D1 they will be a top 20 team and that is it, Won't make it to top 10. they will make the tourney and lose early.
Reply to this

Salisbury against other Southern Schools
    by (#40548) on 4/27/06 @11:22AM
I think Salisbury would be able to compete against other southern schools in the likes of recruiting cause it offers a different scene than the MD, UVA, or UNC. I think overall they would end up being a Towson like team, which is a team that every 6 or 7 years would make a serious top ten run, but inevitably be hovering around 10-15 in the nation. But they still would offer the smaller school, in a more laid back atmosphere, and 30min from the beach. Its not a high class place like duke that costs an arm and a leg. Even if they double in size there still a small school that is affordable to anyone with or with out a scholarship. Thats why they could compete against these other schools. Being a state school gives them an advantage over alot of other schools that have tried to D3 to D1 switch before. But then again it wont happen for a while.
Reply to this

Good Point
    by (#123895) on 4/27/06 @11:27AM
That is a great point. One of the biggest reasons for Salisbury's dominance is the fact that they are dominant. Players consistently transfer out of top D1 programs where they're not getting playing time because they want to play and play in national championships. If Salisbury were to make the move to D1 they would lose one of their greatest recruiting tools. Then, of course, there is the issue about scholarships. Will salisbury offer athletic scholarships if they move to D1. Hobart does not and it is defintiely a challenge for them to pull in the top recruits because of it. Why would the top high school players in the country reject athletic sholarships from Hopkins, Syracuse, Virginia, and Maryland to play for Hobart and recieve little financial aid?
Reply to this

Scholarships Yes
    by (#40548) on 4/27/06 @1:20PM
they would be able to offer scholarships because they are a state school. Hobart decides not to offer scholarships for the fact that they are private and come from private funding. I am not sure how that would work considering title IX, but I know hopkins does it somehow so it would be interesting to see how it is done. But its not worth talking about cause its not going to happen. Salisbury is perfectly happy in D3 winning titles. They will not make the switch because it requires alot of influence from different areas than lacrosse. Plus they have other sports teams at that school that would fair well at the D1 level as well. I believe the Field Hockey team has back to back national titles and I know the softball team has been playing at the top level as well for quite some time now.
Reply to this

callilax you're an idiot
    by (#133107) on 4/27/06 @3:12PM
DIII schools do not offer any athletic scholarships. The school itself would not become a DI school, it's lax program and lax program only would become a DI event. Johns Hopkins is a DIII SCHOOL with a DI Lax program. If your program (not necessarily your entire school) is Division I, you can receive athletic scholarships. Whether you are a state school or not has no effect, it's about the rules of the NCAA. Do your research. Every school has a budget that is proportional to it's size, student body, academic and athletic program. Hobart does have a form of athletic scholarships in the form of financial aid for aspiring students who are also in an athletic program. Kid you need to study a bit before you come on here and try to lecture people.
Reply to this

After some research
    by (#40548) on 4/27/06 @5:24PM
If Hobart does have this then they are going against what they said they would do as they agreed to forfiet their abitity to offer athletic financial aid when entering into DI lacrosse in 1995. I will admit that I didn't research this till now, I figured that salisbury would be able to offer athletic scholarships as Hopkins does being a DIII school with one DI program. But there are only eight exempt DIII programs that have this ability that date back to 1983 and was "grandfathered" again two years ago. In the same agreement in 2003, no school that is dominantly DIII based in athletics will be able to offer athletic aide to its players. So I will admit I should have researched it, my bad. And it just shows more reason why Salisbury wont go DI which I have been saying ever since I went to the school.
Reply to this

Scholarships not offered in NCAA DI Patriot League
    by (#81726) on 4/28/06 @9:39AM
As far as I know, scholarships are NOT offered to any playes (for any sport) in the Patriot League....instead, they can get "academic grants", pretty similar to DIII athletes. If the admissions & athletic programs / departments are on the same working page, they will get recruits the $$$ they need to attend those institutions. I know Hobart just moved to a different confrence, however I think they kept that tradition of not offering athletic scholarships going.
Reply to this

D-I vs D-III
    by (#2700) on 4/27/06 @5:50PM
In the era that Hobart won national titles year after year, the NCAA permitted season play between D-I and D-III programs. The Statesmen would routinely schedule and beat quality D-I schools in March and April, then shred the D-III tournament field each May --with no scholarships to offer.

The success of those great teams was attributable to two legendary coaches -- Jerry Schmidt and Dave Urick. If Urick had been permitted to move the program to D-1 when it was first discussed, Hobart would be tournament bound every year.
Reply to this

80's Hobart Dynasty
    by (#135972) on 5/23/06 @5:41PM
Dave Urick's Hobart teams were a phenomenon, and beating Syracuse, Cornell, and I think UVa in '86, with the only loss against D1 champ Hopkins...those were great teams. Let's not forget, that was 20 years ago. Back then, the talent pool was very shallow. There were probably half as many D3 teams. The field was weak (maybe still is) Any school that had been playing ball as long as Hobart had a well established tradition. Also, they may not give athletic scholarships, but back then and I suspect still today, if you can put the ball in the net your folks are probably not paying full retail price by the lake in Geneva. SU will never go D1. They are part of a thriving D3 athletic department. But they're gaining on "Hobart Status". Berkman's w/l record speaks for itself.

One last much more fun would it be for Hobart (alum, coaches, players etc.) to have remained in D3 and be a part of something special, rather than to be a perennial also ran in D1 but still play Syracuse and Cornell every year? Just wondering.
Reply to this

youth lax
    by (#52557) on 4/26/06 @9:32PM
One of coach Berkman's unknown accomplishments is working to build lacrosse among the Eastern Shore's youth. Each year he and his players put on an indoor lax instructional league. They also have a one day free lax clinic each Feb. for local kids. In 1989, when he first came to SU, lax was virtually non-existent on the Eastern Shore of MD. Now he has 5 players on his roster from the Shore, Matt Mercer and Kevin Conklin lead their respective D3 teams in points. Also, Parkside High School won a Maryland State Championship last year, a first for the Shore. A lot of this can be traced back to Coach Berkman and the success of his program at SU.
Reply to this

Youth Lax
    by (#133084) on 4/27/06 @9:30AM
SU and Coach Berkman definitely have had a positive influence on game of lacrosse on the Eastern Shore. Many of his players have stayed in the area after graduation. I know Parkside High School's entire coaching staff is former SU players. A couple other high schools on the shore have former SU players as part of their coaching staffs as well. Their knowledge of the game as really helped raise the level of play and interest in the game on the shore. Hopefully we see title #7 this year for the Gulls!
Reply to this

    by (#14061) on 4/27/06 @10:08AM
As it stands right now, Berkman's alltime coaching record at Salisbury is 272-29.....I'll repeat that, 272-29...that is downright ridiculous!!!!! He is a living legend. Hats off to you Coach for your first class program in every aspect. Look forward to the war on the shore this weekend!!!! Go Gulls!!!!
Reply to this

(no subject)
    by (#749) on 4/27/06 @4:44PM
"Two of our best middies are two local kids, Michael Hurley and my son Kyle Berkman. "

Tell us how you really feel about your son.
Reply to this

    by (#79336) on 4/27/06 @9:24PM
what is that supposed to mean
Reply to this

    by (#52557) on 4/27/06 @10:03PM
If you have seen his son play, then you would know that he is one of their best middies. He could have gone to any D1 school he wanted. By the time he leaves SU, he be right up there with Justin Smith and Andy Murray as Player of the year for D3. Just sit back, watch the show and count the rings this year and the next 3 years.
Reply to this

check the numbers........
    by (#78222) on 4/28/06 @6:31AM
If you are third in middie points and first in assists, you are, by definition, one of the best middies on the team. Bring War on the Shore back to campuses.
Reply to this

i know
    by (#133156) on 4/28/06 @7:32AM
hes my cousin...ive seen him play multiple times
Reply to this