ATLANTA – Via a unanimous vote by the MCLA Board of Directors, the MCLA Coach of the Year award in both divisions will now be known as the Flip Naumburg Award presented by the IMLCA.
The name change was adopted to honor the long-time MCLA coach and lacrosse innovator who passed away on May 6 in his Fort Collins’ home at the age of 66.
“Flip was underappreciated in the greater lacrosse world for all he meant to the sport,” said former Michigan head coach John Paul. “He was always thinking about ways to honor the game's Native American roots. He was always coming up with ways to best teach the game to everyone from first-time youth players to college athletes. He wanted lacrosse to be simple, fun and pure.”
Naumburg was responsible for building the Colorado State program into the most successful program the MCLA has known to this point. He was the head coach for four of the six Ram titles and led the team to six appearances in the finals.
His coaching style has been credited with bringing seriousness to the MCLA as the association emerged as an important opportunity on the collegiate lacrosse stage.
“Now, every team walks into the arena two-by-two. That was Flip,” said long-time Sonoma State head coach Doug Carl and the MCLA’s current director of eligibility. “Teams win and are back at their hotels, not milling around the fields. That was Flip. Team bags are lined up single file on the sideline. That was Flip. Extra sticks lined up on the sideline. That was Flip.”
“Flip was in the right place at the right time for the MCLA,” said Alex Smith, who followed Naumburg at Colorado State and is now the head coach at NCAA Division II St. Michael’s (Vt.). “He had just arrived at CSU and I don’t know that he foresaw what the association would become. He just knew that if he built it, they would come. He was singularly focused on making CSU into an amazing program. It just so happened to coincide with the rise of the MCLA and we got to ride that wave to a ton of success.”
Off the field, Naumburg’s contributions to lacrosse were just as prolific. He is credited with inventing the offset head, which is now used universally in the sport. He was also a co-founder of the Vail Shootout in 1973, the seminal offseason event for collegiate and post-collegiate players.
Naumburg was also the founder of Rock-it Pocket, a custom-stringing company that helped improve ball control. He was inducted into the Colorado Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2006.
The first Flip Naumburg Award presented by the IMLCA will be issued at the IMCLA convention this December and will go to Michigan State’s Cam Holding in Division I and North Dakota State’s Zach Bosh in Division II.
“Naming our Coach of the Year award after Flip was a no-brainer,” said Ken Lovic. “We’ve had a lot of coaches who were instrumental in the growth of the MCLA and Flip was at the top of the list.”