BG - Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany announced last week that when Maryland and Rutgers University join the conference they will be coming into a fresh new varsity sport for the league, lacrosse.
This is a huge announcement as the Big Ten becomes only the 2nd, traditional power conference, to have the sport. The ACC has it, and obviously so with such a stack of powerhouses, but I don’t count the Big East. Especially with it being split and eaten up by the other actual power conferences. The Big Ten is one of the highest grossing conferences and the addition is a huge backing for this still somewhat secret sport.
For a lacrosse to become a league sport there needs to be 6 members. Already there was Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State with joining members Maryland and Rutgers. Where does the 6th come from? Well the other big announcement was the John Hopkins men’s team joining as well to form the conference.
This may be the even bigger story, as JHU has been independent since the inception of the sport in 1883 on campus. The Hopkins’ board making this decision would seem to indicate the growth of the sport, and the need to be a part of a league before you get left out. Joining a conference makes scheduling easier, and as the Boise State football program has shown, you want to be able to compete for the automatic bid. As well, with a new conference the NCAA tournament could expand from 16 teams to possibly 20.
The obvious criticism for this will be the level of competition in this new conference. Now, it’s true that Rutgers and Michigan haven’t really established names on the national division one level. However, Hopkins and Maryland joining is huge, as it really gives the Big Ten a shot in the arm. The Blue Jays and Terrapins are traditional powerhouses that annually compete for National Championships.
But the newest members won’t be the only ones competing. Ohio State and Penn State have showed promise for the conference this year by earning the 3rd and 8th seeds in the NCAA tournament. While right now it can’t match up with the powerhouse ACC (Notre Dame, Duke, Virginia, Cuse, North Carolina), I think it will be more competitive then given credit.
This announcement is also very big for the growth of the sport, not only in conference with programs at Purdue, Michigan State, Indiana and so on that are D1, but the spread of the sport across the country. Lacrosse has only favored the East Coast teams, but the arrival of Denver and Notre Dame on the national scene have shown that the sport is growing. OSU and PSU have gotten better, and getting their home conference formed will only help the sport spread from coast to coast.
Being able to put the B1G brand on lacrosse will over further validate the sport. As well, it will expose even more people in the Midwest to help it grow with the infamous Big Ten Network. Lucas Oil Stadium was a Semi Final site this year and was attended by 20,000+. That was just the start.
Within the conference, and specifically as a Purdue fan, hopefully the formation of a conference, and the added revenue from the expansion, will push the other schools quicker towards division one. Michigan State would be one to watch, as their in state rivals are D1. I don’t think they’ll want to be left behind. Hockey was also added, a favorite as well.