Conference Realignment: What Does it Mean for Lacrosse?
Maryland and Rutgers are heading to the Big Ten. But there's no such thing as Big Ten lacrosse. Not yet at least. Lacrosse is the afterthought of realignment, the headache for the athletic director. And in this case a negative step for Maryland Lacrosse.
Nationally, does this move really change anything fundamental about the NCAA title? Not really. A 16-team tournament guarantees that a team, if quality, will gain access to the tourney.
Right now Maryland is in the abyss — where do they end up? What will their schedule look like? How will the move impact recruiting? Who would a recruit rather play: Virginia, UNC and Duke or Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State? Exactly. So it will impact recruiting.
Terp backers claim the move will boost facilities. Lacrosse recruits don't attend schools because of facilities. This isn’t football and basketball where the college teams are minor league training grounds for the NBA and NFL. Lacrosse recruits and their parents want a great education. Then they want to play at a school that can win an NCAA title and that plays an attractive and competitive schedule.
Maryland’s future schedules are a big-time TBD. The ACC could strong-hand UNC, Duke and Virginia … asking them to drop Maryland from their schedules. Don’t kid yourself; they’d drop the Terps in a second if the league tells them to. That would be a shame for fans and it would hurt the Terps to end rivalries that date back to WWII. It could happen.
So with five Big Ten schools playing varsity men's lacrosse, will the Big Ten Network increase their lacrosse coverage and ramp up a commitment to men's lacrosse? They have televised just a few games in the past five years, usually in conjunction with a spring football game. If the BTN were to give lacrosse a visible and regular platform, that would be a huge positive for lacrosse growth in the Midwest and the five schools who play. But lacrosse TV isn't a money-making venture so I doubt you will see a ramp up by the BTN.
How do we get to six and an AQ?
Michigan State is millions of dollars away from rekindling their men's lacrosse program. A month ago I was in East Lansing, and spoke to a person involved in the lacrosse movement at Michigan State. Preliminary fundraising fell short of the $8 million needed to endow a men's and women's program, but they are trying and getting closer. But they are millions of dollars short.
Minnesota Athletic Director Norwood Teague is from VCU. He graduated from UNC and worked at Uva. He understands the pull of the sport. I spoke with him when he was at VCU about adding men's varsity lacrosse and he seemed to be on that path prior to leaving for the Gophers. He is a progressive thinker and a future ally of the sport. If Teague were to add men's and women's lacrosse, perhaps the tipping point would be reached and others would follow suit.
Maryland and Rutgers were round one; I expect more significant moves during the next six months. You could see Florida State leave the ACC. In lacrosse terms, so what. Maybe Furman will try to get into the ACC as a lacrosse-only member, giving the ACC an AQ.
The Big East has lost Syracuse, Notre Dame and Rutgers. Ouch. You could argue that Georgetown has been hit the hardest by lacrosse realignment. But the puzzle pieces aren't done moving and the Big East can't afford to sit still and survive.
The Patriot League appears to be in excellent shape with the addition of Loyola. The league has an AQ and a small television package — what more can a team want?
Six is the magic number for an AQ.
The ACC won't have six, the B10 doesn't have six, the Big East has five.
This is just starting to get interesting.
Thanks to InsideLacrosse.com and Quint Kessenich for this story dated November 26, 2012.
Quint Kessenich can be followed on Twitter at @QKessenich