The last time Maryland men’s lacrosse was crowned NCAA champion in 1975, Terrapins head coach John Tillman ’91 was just a toddler. Forty-two years later, on Memorial Day, he ended Maryland’s title drought and secured the program’s third national championship.
Maryland, playing in the championship game for the third consecutive year, downed Ohio State, 9-6, in Foxborough, Mass. But those Terrapins were led by a man whose roots trace back to Ithaca.
At Cornell, Tillman — who transferred from Colgate — began his playing career as a goalie, before switching to multiple other positions. In 1989, the Red reached the NCAA tournament and in 1991, Tillman earned a varsity letter — all under the guidance of legendary Cornell head coach Richie Moran, who spent his playing days with Maryland.
Immediately after graduating from the School of Hotel Administration, Tillman stayed in the neighborhood and began his coaching career at Ithaca College, where he spent four seasons as an assistant. He later moved on to an assistant coaching position at Navy in the offensive coordinator role. There, Tillman helped the Midshipmen win four straight conference titles, and in 2004, Navy knocked off Cornell in the NCAA tournament. Tillman and the Midshipmen would go on to play in the championship game, but ultimately fell to Syracuse, 14-13.
In 2010, Maryland hired Tillman as head coach after he spent three years as head coach of Harvard. In his first season, he brought the Terrapins their first conference title in six years. Four years later, the Terrapins reached their 12th NCAA final, losing to Denver, 10-5. The following year, Maryland played for the championship again but was unable to bring home glory; UNC edged the Terrapins in overtime. On Monday, Tillman finally broke through and completed Maryland’s championship run.