On Monday morning, the Big Ten announced the official addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse. For the women, this was a mere formality. Ever since Rutgers and Maryland announced their intentions to join the Big Ten, the league had six teams on board, the number required to earn an NCAA automatic qualifier.
The men’s situation was less certain until Monday, when the Big Ten announced that the Johns Hopkins men would be joining as a lacrosse-only member, giving the Big Ten the needed six teams. It’s a huge move for the Blue Jays — who ended more than a century of independence — but an equally reassuring one for the Maryland athletics department, which no longer has to worry about finding its men’s lacrosse team a full-fledged conference when the Terps bolt for the Big Ten in 2014.
Alas, all worked out in lacrosse land. Maryland and the Big Ten discussed the issue last November, when the realignment hullabaloo took center stage. Monday afternoon, men’s Coach John Tillman and women’s Coach Cathy Reese participated in a conference call, expressing their enthusiasm for the move and shedding light on just how the Terps helped make the Johns Hopkins addition possible.
An edited transcript is below.
Tillman: Obviously, it’s an exciting day for Maryland lacrosse, but also for the sport of lacrosse in general with the announcement of the Big Ten lacrosse league. I think it’s something we’ll see some talented teams take the field, great competitions, some teams that have been very successful historically and recently, which is terrific. Part of our goal is to make sure we help expand the game and help the game grow.
Reese: It’s exciting for the Big Ten to take on women’s lacrosse for us. We have some rivalries that have continued, we currently do play Penn State, we’ve played them for years, so we’ll have the opportunity to develop new rivalries with different teams. One of the neat things for us is, of the six women’s lacrosse program, five of the six are coached by Maryland alums. That’s something that’s fun for us moving forward. We’ll see where this takes us.
On rectifying anticipated scheduling problems
Tillman: I think that was something, not knowing where we were going, we certainly want to sit back and take a look at all the options out there and see what was available. Seeing the success that some of the teams had this year in the Big Ten, most notably Penn State and Ohio State being seeded teams in the NCAA tournament, those teams have done a very good job, they’re well coached, they’re really good programs. …
Every single program I think has a chance to be very good. That does provide us with a good foundation to move forward. Depending on local rivalries and other things, getting to areas strategically for recruiting, and also trying to keep that RPI and strength of schedule high, and hopefully continue some rivalries nationally, it gives you a good foundation to build off of.
Tillman: At least it gives you something that you can be a little bit more specific, in terms of who you’re going to play. The one thing we talked to with all the recruits is, just understand it’s important for us to always play a difficult schedule, it’s the way that it’s been at Maryland. … Yeah, that’s something kids are interested in. So to give them a little bit more specificity of what the conference will be, I think it’s helpful for the young men and young women going forward.
On pre-Big Ten concerns about lacrosse conferences
Reese: With the announcement of Rutgers joining, we had six women’s teams sitting there. Not knowing anything at that point, until this information was released, but knowing the specifics on the Big Ten, I think we were pretty hopeful in the future of women’s lacrosse with that. We were in a bit different situation back in November. … Knowing that we’d start and develop new rivalries and have new challenges as we face different teams, that was something that was exciting for us.
Tillman: I think the thing we’ve been very comfortable with is our administration has done an amazing job of really exploring all the different options. We’ve been getting great support from [Athletic Director] Kevin Anderson and [Deputy Athletic Director] Kelly Mehrtens and all the top-level administrators here. And the Big Ten has been just great in terms of their support for lacrosse. They’ve been very aggressive in terms of weighing what options were out there. The Big Ten is so excited about men’s and women’s lacrosse. That really got us excited. The Big Ten, everything they’ve put their mind to, they’ve done exceptionally well on all levels.
On helping orchestrate the Hopkins move
Tillman: I can’t say enough about the job that Kevin Anderson did. It says a lot about how important men’s and women’s lacrosse is at Maryland. It says a lot about the commitment he has to our programs. He was really involved and he wanted to make sure we were doing the right things, we were looking at the right options, and he was very open-minded about everything. I think he wanted to do what was in the best interest of the Big Ten conference, but also the men’s and women’s programs here.
We sat down and went through a lot of different options, and we talked about a lot of different teams and different scenarios. We really wanted to explore every option, and any option that would be something that could help the conference. We really left no stone unturned. I think [Anderson] sees it from an administrative standpoint, which is a really good point to have. I see it just on the coaches level, the RPI, strength of schedule, quality of those teams, the tradition they bring, the commitment and facilities or whatever it may be. Having some other people look at it through a different lens, I always think it helpful when you’re making a big decision.
On future scheduling of former ACC rivals
Reese: We’d love to keep those games in place. We haven’t begun scheduling that far out yet, so we’ll see what happens when we get to that point. These are some of the best games we’ve had in the history of women’s lacrosse. For us, we’d love them around, love the competition and the great game that provides. We hope to and we’ll see where we fall next year when we start preparing our schedule for the following year.
Tillman: Yeah, I basically echo what I think Cathy said.