When George Boiardi ’04 joined the Cornell men’s lacrosse team in the fall of 2000, he quickly took his place among the most athletic and fleet-footed players on an already formidable Red squad. His on-field impact was immediate — in his rookie year of 2001, he was named the team’s rookie of the year after playing all 13 games in the midfield. Over the next two years, he developed as one of the team’s most important contributors in the defensive midfield, and one of its most respected leaders off of it.
One day after Boiardi’s sudden death during Wednesday’s game against Binghamton, his teammates and the campus community began the mourning process.
“George was a very, very strong leader. He was very well-liked,” said Athletic Director Andy Noel yesterday, while returning to Ithaca from St. Louis, where he was attending the NCAA wrestling championships. “He had a quiet kind of charisma, and it’s just a devastating loss.”
After spending all of Wednesday night huddled together in Schoellkopf Hall, the men’s lacrosse team continued its remembrance yesterday. The team attend the daily mass at Anabel Taylor Hall, which was dedicated in Boiardi’s memory.
“The chapel was overflowing,” said Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services. “His whole family attended — his parents, two uncles, and a very close family friend. They greeted folks after the service — they were tremendously generous with their time.”
Head coach Jeff Tambroni has taken on the added role of counselor for his bereaved team.
“He’s been a combination of total heartbreak and incredibly stoic,” Murphy said. “I couldn’t be prouder of a colleague or a representative of the University than I was for Jeff. It’s your worst nightmare. The only thing worse would be [losing] your own biological child.”
“There’s not a lot you can say in a situation like this,” Noel said. “I thanked [Tamboni] for being such a strong leader and you can say how sorry you are that such a terrible tragedy it is for this program.”
The University also provided support for members of the women’s lacrosse team throughout the day yesterday. Wednesday evening, many of the team’s players were standing at the edge of Schoellkopf Field at the time of the incident awaiting the start of their own practice.
“We met with the women’s team,” Murphy said. “They are planning on leaving tomorrow for Nashville and play Vanderbilt and Ohio State.”
The women’s team is slated to play Vanderbilt on Sunday followed by Ohio State on Tuesday. The squad held a light practice yesterday evening.
Meanwhile, no determination has been made yet regarding the men’s team’s game at North Carolina scheduled for Tuesday, according to Laura Stange, director of athletic communications.
“What I understand is that as of this afternoon, they do intend to travel to North Carolina [today],” Murphy said.
Noel had just arrived in St. Louis when he was informed of Boiardi’s injury.
“I got a call … that one of our athletes was seriously injured,” Noel said. “I was obviously very stunned and frightened.”
Boiardi’s family is planning a memorial service on Monday in his home town of Washington, D.C. The entire men’s lacrosse team is expected to attend, according to Murphy. A memorial service on campus will be scheduled for after break.
Boiardi, who is the fourth Cornell athlete to die in the last four years, was the first to die in actual competition, making his death even more difficult for the team and Cornell athletics.
“We have to sort of step up and deal with each as best as we can,” Noel said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had more than our share of tragedies over the past four years.”
“I just keep thinking ‘short time, big impact,'” Murphy said. “His dad talked a lot about how much he loved this institution … and the team. Everybody talked about his kind heart and gentle nature.”
Sun Senior Writer Brian Tsao contributed to this story.
Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor