By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — It seemed only fitting that the ceremony at which the late Michael Colley was honored took place not more than a long fly ball from Camden Yards in Baltimore.
Lacrosse and football were not Colley’s only athletic passions. He fervently followed the Orioles in good seasons and, more often of late, in bad.
The U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association held its annual convention last week, and Colley posthumously received the Doyle Smith Sports Information/Media Award.
The audience at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor included Colley’s mother, Bert, his former colleague and boss Rich Murray, and UVa men’s lacrosse coach Dom Starsia.
Colley, who worked for 18 years in UVa’s athletics media relations department, died of a heart attack July 11 in Virginia Beach. He was 46, and his passing stunned the lacrosse community.
In Baltimore, accepting the Doyle Smith Award on Colley’s behalf was his close friend Myron Ripley, whose remarks can be read here.
“Myron gave a very touching speech,” Starsia said.
Smith, who died in 2004, was a legendary figure in the UVa athletics department and the lacrosse world, as well as a friend and mentor to Colley.
Ripley, a fixture in the Charlottesville lacrosse community as a coach and a statistician, also was a protégé of Smith.
The USILA presents the Doyle Smith Award each year to a person who has contributed significantly to the coverage and promotion of the sport.
At the same luncheon, UVa lacrosse player Max Pomper received the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association’s second annual Boston Market Humanitarian Award.
Pomper was unable to attend, so Starsia accepted on his behalf.
“I was very touched by the fact that the lacrosse community, the coaches and institutions, chose to honor Max and Mike the way they did,” Starsia said.
Pomper, a senior from Long Island, N.Y., launched a fundraiser this year — a flag-football tournament called “Remembering Will Barrow” — to benefit HELP, UVa’s student-run crisis hotline.
Barrow, who was a standout defensive midfielder for UVa, took his life in November 2008.
Two of Pomper’s teammates, Mikey Thompson and Kyle Menendez, also deserve special recognition for their roles in ensuring that the inaugural tournament came off as planned Nov. 7.
“Sometimes with these community-service projects, all well-intentioned, you’ve got to drag players in kicking and screaming,” Starsia said.
Not this time.
“This truly was a student-run event,” Starsia said. “It was a great event, and we’re really glad that somebody was able to make some good come out of such a senseless loss.”
After the luncheon, several college coaches, including Syracuse’s John Desko, Johns Hopkins’ Dave Pietramala and UMBC’s Don Zimmerman, sought out Colley’s mother to tell her how much her son had meant to their sport.
“It meant a lot to her,” Ripley said.
That touched Starsia, too. So did the actions of Princeton’s Jerry Price, a nominee for the Doyle Smith Award.
Price withdrew his name from consideration, “because he wanted Mike to get the award. Everybody pulled together and did the right thing,” Starsia said.
“One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about our sport is that it’s still a very close community. Everybody sort of does know everybody else, and frankly I think people were shocked by what happened to Mike.”
After his passing, the Virginia Athletics Foundation started a fund in Colley’s memory. Nearly $14,000 has been raised, and the VAF is still accepting gifts.
A specific use for donations has not been determined, but money raised will support men’s lacrosse at UVa.
Donations may be sent to: Michael Colley Memorial Fund, c/o Virginia Athletics Foundation, P.O. Box 400833, Charlottesville, VA, 22904.
For information, call (434) 982-5555 or (800) 626-8723.