T

he last 24 hours for Michael Sowers have been a blur.

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the situation,” he told US Lacrosse Magazine in an exclusive interview Friday morning. “Everything has been moving so fast. I never thought it would come to this point.”

"> Michael Sowers: 'I Never Thought it Would Come to This Point' | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Michael Sowers: 'I Never Thought it Would Come to This Point'


T

he last 24 hours for Michael Sowers have been a blur.

“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the situation,” he told US Lacrosse Magazine in an exclusive interview Friday morning. “Everything has been moving so fast. I never thought it would come to this point.”

The self-described “relatively under-recruited” attackman out of Upper Dublin (Pa.) is now the biggest free agent in college lacrosse. He found out through an email Princeton’s Athletic Director, Mollie Marcoux Samaan, sent yesterday to all spring sport athletes that the route he and many of his senior teammates were previously told was the best option to come back to Princeton was no longer in play.

“Due to the University’s strong belief that all students should remain in school now more than ever, Princeton has decided that it will not approve the necessary waivers for students who withdraw from the Spring ’20 semester to use their 5th year of eligibility at Princeton,” Marcoux Samaan wrote, as previously reported by the Daily Princetonian.

Around 4 p.m., after speaking with family, Princeton head coach Matt Madalon and offensive coordinator Jim Mitchell, Sowers emailed the university’s compliance officer and said that he wanted to enter his name into the transfer portal.


“I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the situation. Everything has been moving so fast. I never thought it would come to this point.”


Almost immediately after the news emerged, the conjecture commenced. The online conversation was more dizzying than Sowers’ change of direction dodge. Fans of most top 20 teams, sans the Ivy League, all pined for the Tewaaraton frontrunner who averaged 9.4 points per game and led Princeton to a 5-0 record this spring. Opinions varied. Most were shouted through keyboards. He should go to Penn State and replace Grant Ament! No, UNC, so he can team up with Chris Gray! What about the option to rejoin former Princeton offensive coordinator Pat March at Syracuse?

Silent amidst the news and unrest was Sowers. His initial reaction was shock. The word he used most to describe the situation was “weird.” While he recognized this past month was “really frustrating and disappointing,” he does not want to speak ill of the place he called home for the last four years.

“This isn’t my place to go bash anybody on social media,” Sowers said. “I have had an unbelievable experience.”

He hoped to continue that experience in 2021. He told US Lacrosse Magazine on March 20 that his dream would be to be back in a Princeton uniform.

The Ivy League and then Princeton shut the door on that dream. On April 2, the Ivy League announced that it would not grant an extra year of eligibility for spring athletes whose seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 outbreak, contrary to the NCAA’s previous ruling offering “eligibility relief.”

Still, Sowers knew that there was a precedent in the Ivy League to withdraw during unforeseen circumstances, as Rob Pannell did at Cornell after a foot injury curtailed his senior season. After discussions with various members of the university’s staff, Sowers was under the impression that withdrawing was a possible option. Everyone seemed onboard with the idea. On March 27, he contacted his Dean of Studies to initiate the withdrawal process as a precautionary measure. He never finalized it, contrary to earlier reports, staying enrolled at Princeton. He wanted to wait until he received further clarity from the university and the Ivy League.

Yesterday, he got that answer.











PHOTO BY PETE EMERSON


The player whose preparation was lauded as “meticulous” by his coaches and teammates was thrust into a situation for which he could not anticipate. Today, he should have been making his final preparations to play Dartmouth on Princeton’s Sherrerd Field. Instead, Sowers, along with Madalon and Mitchell, are fielding messages from college coaches around the country.

“I have told coaches that I am going to be very disorganized, especially in the next couple days, because I never considered a Plan B,” Sowers said. “I never thought that I would need one.”

Sowers does not know the exact number of coaches who reached out to him but did say the outpouring was huge.

“I am super grateful,” he said. “It's like the recruiting process, but obviously a bit more unique. It has been overwhelming how generous these coaches are. The hardest part for me is that I can only pick one school at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that school can't be Princeton where my heart is and where I poured the last four years into.

“My heart is at Princeton. Those are the guys that I want to play with, and I put my heart and a lot of hard work into the last four years.”

The most difficult part of yesterday’s news for Sowers was realizing that he would not be returning to Nassau Street and get one more chance to play with the same group. Still, the two-time captain who Madalon described the week before the 2020 season started as “over-thoughtful” and a “selfless superstar” wanted to make sure the conversation did not dwell on his situation.

“There are other people at Princeton and outside the Ivy League who are not going to have the opportunity to go play at another school,” he said. “It’s just the reality. I think that’s the most devastating part of this whole thing. There are so many kids that love their sport and what they do, but they’re never going to get the opportunity to play it again.”

While there will be many questions to answer in the coming weeks, Sowers does know what he’s looking for wherever he gets the opportunity to play next.

“Great academics, obviously, but I want to go win a national championship,” he said. “That’s been my goal since I’ve been at Princeton. I want to win a national championship and bring one to a group of guys that is a special locker room. That’s what we had at Princeton. I want to provide that spark to a locker room and fit into a culture where I can put a program in the best position to win a national championship.”