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Rutgers men’s lacrosse legend Tom Hayes passes away at 82

He was a legendary figure in the sport across the world.

Legendary Rutgers men’s lacrosse head coach Tom Hayes.
Rutgers Athletics

Tom Hayes, the all-time winningest men’s lacrosse coach in program history with 194 victories and Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame member, passed away at the age of 82 on Monday. He led the Scarlet Knights to five NCAA Tournaments, 21 winning seasons and a final top 20 national ranking for 24 straight years during his tenure from 1975 to 2000.

Firsts for Rutgers men’s lacrosse under Hayes included the first 11 win season and first NCAA Tournament win in 1986, as well as setting a program best nine game winning streak in 1982. Hayes was the head coach at Drexel prior to RU and won 243 overall in his 32 year coaching career.

During his induction into the Rutgers Athletics Hall of Fame in 2017, Hayes said, “One of the things I believe in and tried to pass on to my former players is that you’re going to get a lot out of this sport, so make sure you put something back into it. I think we’ve definitely done that and I’m proud of them for that.”

Hayes is a legend in lacrosse for his work outside of Rutgers in growing the sport all across the world. He traveled to many countries in his lifetime to introduce and help set up lacrosse to be played worldwide. He held multiple positions in his career as a long term member of the Federation of International Lacrosse including as President and other executive roles. In addition, he served as President of the US Lacrosse Coaches Association, was on the board of directors of the US Lacrosse Foundation, was Chairman for USILA Rules Committee and the USILA International Games Committee, was the general manager for Team USA and served on the Pre-Olympic Tournament Committee.

Honors received during his career include being a two-time “USILA Man of The Year”, a USILA Frenchy Julien Service Award winner, New Jersey’s Lacrosse Man of the Year and Hall of Fame member for U.S. Lacrosse, his former high school Sewanhaka and New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Long Island Lacrosse Halls of Fame.

As a player, Hayes led Sewanhaka to three championships, was a two-time All-American at Penn State and led them to a conference championship in 1962.

“He’s an icon,” said Reid Jackson, who played for Hayes from 1991-1994 and won multiple world championships with Team USA. He spoke during Hayes’ Rutgers HOF induction back in 2017 and said at the time, “He is the Vince Lombardi of lacrosse. He’s a giver and not a taker. He does everything to promote this game. I’ve known Coach Hayes for a long time, and playing for him was very positive. He not only cared about you as an athlete or teammate, but he cared about you as a person. He cared about your life in general. He wanted you to succeed at everything. I really enjoyed playing for him and I think that’s why we’re still friends. He always cared about not only what you did on the field, but what you could do for your community and everything. It speaks to who he is.”

Keith Cromwell played for Hayes at Rutgers from 1998-2000 and said during his induction, “Coach Hayes had a tremendous impact on my lacrosse career and helped mold me into the person I am today. He instilled confidence and afforded me an opportunity to compete at the highest of levels when others did not give me a chance. I am grateful for our relationship and admire all that he has done as a father, husband, grandfather and coach. He has been an ambassador for our great sport of lacrosse, and I owe a tremendous amount to him as lacrosse still to this day is a huge part of my life and my families’ lives.”

Tom Hayes was a legendary figure in lacrosse and represented himself, Rutgers and the entire sport with class and integrity throughout his life. May he rest in peace.