Tom Hayes – a key figure in the growth of international lacrosse, a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the winningest coach in Rutgers University men’s lacrosse history – passed away on Monday. He was 82 years old.
“Our sport has lost a true legend. Tom’s vision from the beginning was to get lacrosse back into the Olympics and it was a real pleasure that World Lacrosse received full recognition from the IOC during his lifetime,” said Sue Redfern, president of World Lacrosse. “Tom’s lifelong leadership in developing lacrosse around the world coupled with his ability to enthuse, inspire and encourage those around him will last on. He will be significantly missed, but we are all grateful to have known him and for his immense contribution to World Lacrosse.”
Inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1989, Hayes spent 25 years at Rutgers, leading the Scarlet Knights’ program from 1975-2000 and registering 21 winning seasons. His teams were ranked in the top 20 every year from 1975 to 1998 and made five NCAA tournament appearances.
Hayes was also a pioneer in the development of international lacrosse throughout his coaching career. In 1974, he helped form a U.S. team to play in the Australia Lacrosse Association’s centennial lacrosse celebration and remained influential on the global lacrosse scene from that point onward.
Hayes served World Lacrosse’s predecessor (the International Federation of Lacrosse) as president (1994-2002), vice president (1974-78), secretary-treasurer (1978-82), and general delegate (1974-94), among other roles. Following his retirement from Rutgers, he then joined World Lacrosse’s board of directors as development director from 2008-15, before transitioning to Olympic vision director from 2015-19.
In recognition of his contributions to international lacrosse, World Lacrosse’s Men’s U20 Championship trophy is named in his honor.
“We have lost a legend in the world of lacrosse,” said Bob DeMarco, WL board development director. “Coach Hayes began his involvement in international lacrosse in 1974 when he led the formation of the men’s organization, and he was later instrumental in the merging of the men’s and women’s governing bodies. His outstanding work has helped our game grow into what it is today with 75 member federations and a vision to return to the Olympics, which was always a strong passion of his. His legacy of giving back to the game will live on through all of us.”
In addition to his international work, Hayes was also a member of the USA Lacrosse Foundation board of directors from 1985-87 and was president of the U.S. Lacrosse Coaches Association from 1990-94. He was the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Rules Committee chair from 1975-79 and USILA International Games Committee chair from 1973-94. Hayes served as general manager of the U.S. National Team for the world championships in 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990.
In 2012, Hayes was selected as USA Lacrosse Magazine’s Person of the Year, largely due to his tireless efforts to champion the international growth of lacrosse. That year, he spearheaded World Lacrosse’s application and eventual admission into SportAccord, a key milestone in gaining IOC recognition.
“If you want to start lacrosse in a new country, you pick up sticks, find athletes and watch the joy of our sport take over. But if you wanted to organize lacrosse in that country in a meaningful way, you called Tom Hayes. He was the galvanizing force for the global lacrosse community for over four decades. Getting us a seat with SportAccord was huge. He did it,” said Matt DaSilva, editor-in-chief of USA Lacrosse Magazine at the time.
Among his many lifetime honors, Hayes was the USILA’s Man of the Year in 1974 and 1987, the USILA’s Frenchy Julien Service Award recipient in 2000, the New Jersey Lacrosse Man of the Year in 2000, and World Lacrosse’s Lifetime Achievement Award selectee in 2002.
Originally from Floral Park, New York, Hayes was an outstanding midfielder who led Sewanhaka High School to consecutive championships in 1956, 1957 and 1958. He went on to Penn State University, where he earned All-America honors twice and led the Nittany Lions to the conference championship in 1962 before beginning his coaching career.
Prior to Rutgers, Hayes coached two seasons at his alma mater, Penn State, and five years at Drexel University (1969-74). Hayes’ overall coaching record was 243-162 over 32 seasons, including 194 victories at Rutgers.
In addition to his induction into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, he is a member of the Long Island Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1989), the Sewanhaka High School Hall of Fame (1996), the New Jersey Lacrosse Hall of Fame (1997), the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame (2017) and the Intercollegiate Men’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Hall of Fame (2017).