Maryland men’s lacrosse faces questions in wake of Big Ten move
By Christian Swezey,
The Maryland men’s lacrosse team, one of the sport’s oldest and most well-known programs, faces a number of questions in the wake of Monday’s announcement that the school is leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. On Tuesday, Coach John Tillman said the program will take a cautious approach to its post-ACC plans.
“We’re locked in [the ACC] for two more years,” Tillman said. “If we were talking about moving this spring, I’d be very concerned. But we’re able to take our time and not take the first option but to wait for the best one.”
There are several options in terms of which conference will host the Terrapins. The easiest would be if the Big Ten formed a conference for men’s lacrosse, yet that seems like a long shot.
In 2014-15, the conference will have five schools with men’s lacrosse programs. However, conference bylaws stipulate there must be six teams for the conference to add a sport. Moreover, the Big Ten has not previously admitted associate members, schools that compete in the Big Ten in only one or two sports.
Michigan Coach John Paul said he has “a gut feeling” the Big Ten won’t alter its rules and add lacrosse without a sixth conference team. He added that he would like to schedule Maryland when it joins the Big Ten, even if his team remains in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and Maryland is in another conference or an independent.
“We made it a priority to schedule Penn State, even though we’re in different [lacrosse] conferences,” Paul said.
Another problem is scheduling. Maryland has longstanding rivalries with Johns Hopkins (in a series that began in 1895) and Virginia (1926). Tillman and Johns Hopkins Coach Dave Pietramala have spoken at length about the importance of the Hopkins-Maryland series to their programs.
“We’re waiting for everything to calm down and for the dust to settle,” Pietramala said. “We value our traditional rivalries and we’ve worked hard to maintain them. Our games with Virginia and Maryland and Syracuse and a couple others are very valuable to us.”
Whether the Maryland-Virginia game will continue is another question.
Virginia will add Notre Dame to its ACC schedule in 2015 and Coach Dom Starsia also said he would like to add new Division I program Richmond, which begins play in 2014.
“In terms of the ACC [lacrosse], we had a superconference that everyone was talking about and it doesn’t have the same clout it had two days ago,” Starsia said. “We had the best strength of schedule even before we added Notre Dame, so it doesn’t affect us too much. . . . The ACC will be fine but this affects Maryland significantly. If we stopped playing Maryland, we’re replacing Maryland with Notre Dame so not much would really change.”
Rutgers will join Maryland in the Big Ten in 2014; the Scarlet Knights previously had been in the Big East.
The Rutgers move could have Big East teams such as Georgetown scrambling. For one, the Big East will have five members in 2014-15, one short of the NCAA minimum for an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.
The Hoyas may be helped because, according to people familiar with lacrosse scheduling, they are planning to continue their series with heavyweights Syracuse, Notre Dame and Loyola despite all three changing conferences in the next year or two.
Georgetown and Maryland cannot play in men’s lacrosse — the teams have met in every season since 2003 — because Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson has banned his school’s teams from playing the Hoyas until the men’s basketball squads meet on the court.
The Big East could add a school with men’s lacrosse or an associate member such as Johns Hopkins, currently an independent. Pietramala did not rule out joining a conference.
“We’re an independent right at this second,” he said. “But we have to do our due diligence and see what’s out there.”
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