Most years, being chairman of the NCAA lacrosse tournament selection committee is a relatively low-profile job. After all, there's no nationally televised selection show. But when the committee excluded Bucknell in 1996, chairman John Parry found himself in a firestorm. Didn't the Bison, the nation's lone undefeated team, deserve a spot in the field of 12? "No. Actually the committee was right on that one," says Larry Feldman, creator of the authoritative national lacrosse power ratings. Feldman's computer-driven system takes into account not only results but also strength of schedule, and because of Bucknell's weak slate he had placed the Bison 16th that year.
The following spring Feldman, an attackman at Penn in the 1960s, put his ratings online as the centerpiece of a site dedicated to the sport. In the four years since, laxpower.com has provided ratings, schedules and scores for all men's and women's college teams. It also keeps tabs on more than 2,000 boys' and girls' high school programs in 35 states. Feldman often receives e-mails if a high school's result isn't posted by the morning after a game. He says the site gets 200,000 visitors a week during the season.
Feldman, a software manager at Intel who lives in that lacrosse hotbed of Santa Fe and operates the site with three associates and countless volunteers, also furnishes a free weekly online newsletter and video links to some of the sport's memorable moments. Still, the site's most potent feature remains its power ratings. With the selection committee set to reveal the field on Sunday, which bubble team should be sweating hardest? "Navy," says Feldman, which as of Sunday was 13th in the national polls but four slots higher in laxpower's ratings. Feldman's rationale? The Midshipmen (one of whose midfielders, Nick Lockwood, is shown above) "play tough teams, but are always losing by a goal."