Recruiting a Team of Donors to Pay Homage to Lacrosse’s Greatest Legend

From the moment Lacrosse Head Coach Bill Tierney arrived at DU from Princeton University, it was clear he would be a huge success.

The same was not so true for Brandon Johnson (BS ’98, MS ’02), whose grades at Denver’s East High School failed to show his potential. “Going to DU was an aspirational dream—potentially outside my grasp,” Johnson said. “But I believed DU was the opportunity I needed to prove myself.”

So he promised the dean of admission he would earn straight As. And he vowed to walk on to the lacrosse team. “Keeping my promise was incredibly motivating to me,” Johnson said. “I was starting from scratch. And I was ready this time.”

Now Johnson, who followed through on his promise and earned three As and an A-minus during his first quarter, eventually graduating magna cum laude with a 3.92 GPA, is leading a team effort to endow the head coaching position in Tierney’s name. Having played for DU when the University was preparing to transition up from Division II, he said, “We used to dream about the team becoming a Division I powerhouse, and now it is. Without a top-tier coach, you’re never going to get there—much less stay there.”

In his nine seasons at DU, Tierney has led the team five times to the NCAA Final Four. In his 33 years of coaching, including 21 seasons at Princeton, Tierney has seen seven NCAA Championships and nine NCAA Final appearances. In 2002, he was inducted into the Lacrosse Hall of Fame, and, in 2016, the playing field at the new US Lacrosse national headquarters in Sparks, Maryland, was dedicated as William G. Tierney Field, in honor of his legendary career.

According to Johnson, who now serves as a trustee for DU as well as the founder and principal of Johnson Financial Group in Denver, it will take $1 million to endow the head coaching position. With about half of the money raised so far, he has a clear strategy—and the motivation—for delivering a second time on his promise to DU.

“With all the building on campus, our incredible Chancellor, and our visionary strategic plan, the University as a whole—including the lacrosse program—has the chance to rise to a new level,” he said. “We have a core group of really engaged and passionate alumni who are leading this effort with some amazing gifts. This leadership will inspire others to join the campaign to honor Coach Tierney and endow the Men’s Lacrosse head coaching position with the resources it needs to compete for the National Championship year in and year out.”