As UMBC celebrates the 50th anniversary this year – highlighted by the events of this weekend – it's hard to imagine that the founding fathers and mothers of the university envisioned the building of an athletic powerhouse.
But others did. And one of the first to have that vision was Dick Watts, who served as athletic director and head men's lacrosse coach during the first quarter-century of UMBC's existence. And that vision reached an early apex on May 18, 1980 – Moment No. 3 on the #retriever50for50 countdown.
UMBC was building outstanding NCAA Division II programs in soccer, basketball and lacrosse and by 1980, all three men's sports had taken part in NCAA Championship tournaments. In lacrosse, Watts' Retrievers had earned a spot in the NCAA Division II-III tournament each year from 1975 through 1979.
By 1979, UMBC was playing a schedule which included a number of Division I teams. In the national semifinals, the Retrievers knocked off Towson State, 16-12, and played for the championship at Adelphi. But the Panthers edged UMBC, 17-12, setting the stage for the 1980 campaign.
UMBC cruised through the regular season, posting wins over Duke and North Carolina and capping the campaign with a 14-11 win over Adelphi. In that year, the NCAA split off NCAA Division II and III schools and each conducted a separate championship. So, after waiting 15 days, UMBC have to defeat Adelphi again to claim the title.
A crowd of over 2,500 fans gathered on a sunny after at UMBC Stadium to witness the championship game. A new, fledging network called ESPN had its cameras affixed on the chewed-up grass surface.
Through the first half and into the third quarter, the contest was tightly-played as the Retrievers held a narrow 10-8 lead. But UMBC All-American attackman Marty Cloud scored a pair of goals and added an assist in a 5-0 run the extended the margin to 15-8. And the hosts were off to the races, piling up 23 goals in a convincing 23-14 victory.
Attackman Jay Robertson led the barrage with six goals, while Cloud and the third member of the attack unit, Dave Quattrini each scored three times.
"The title was a culmination of hard work," Watts said. "Not just in 1980, but all the preceding years that fulfilled UMBC's long awaited goal."
Robertson, who led the 1980 squad with 45 goals and 30 assists, Cloud, Quattrini, midfielders Craig Linthicum and Steve Rodkey and defenseman Bruce Baldwin, all earned All-America honors. Robertson, Rodkey (face-off specialist at 65.4%) and Baldwin earned USILA awards as the best of their respective positions. George McGeeney, a sophomore defender on that squad, would earn that honor in UMBC's second NCAA Division I season of 1982.
For the Retriever athletic program, the 1980 championship was a far-fetched dream come true!