Big Ten lacrosse; did anyone think it would happen this soon? Suddenly a new powerhouse in lacrosse has been formed; a conference that could truly change the landscape of the sport. Most thought it was a few years down the road, but the Big Ten has shown that they have a real interest and passion about the sport.
The Big Ten announced earlier this week that it would be making men’s and women’s lacrosse the newest members of the Big Ten family. Of course, there were only three classic big ten schools with programs, Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan. However, the additions of Maryland and Rutgers strengthened the idea, as the conference was now only one participant away from that coveted automatic qualifier.
The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays saw this as a perfect opportunity to land the conference affiliation they so desperately needed. The thinking is that they can avoid missing the tournament after having a season like the one just completed by obtaining that bid. They have the opportunity now, but that AQ won’t just be handed out.
Before even playing a game, the Big Ten looks like one of the best conferences around. Maryland and Hopkins are likely the cornerstones, but Ohio State and Penn State are two programs that are competitive year in and year out. Ohio State had a stellar year this season and Penn State exceeded expectations. Michigan is still a very young program, but with the recruits they’ve landed and the academic prowess of the institution it’s likely that the program won’t take long to take off.
Having a player like the Big Ten is huge for the sport. Not only is it good to have a name like that involved, but it also opens up the opportunity for sponsorships and television time (for example, more games on the Big Ten Network). Most importantly, it sets the groundwork for more Big Ten schools to add lacrosse programs in the future. Northwestern has one of the strongest women’s lacrosse programs in the country, yet they do not field an NCAA or MCLA men’s club. Every other Big Ten school already at least has a MCLA program set up and could follow a plan like Michigan did only a few years ago.
It’s important to note that Johns Hopkins is the first associate member to join the Big Ten for any sport in the history of the conference. The conference waited until last year to finally sponsor hockey, as they needed Penn State to join to hit the minimum number of teams; they didn’t wait for lacrosse. Although the addition of Hopkins may have some worrying about any other Big Ten programs joining the fold in the near future, it more directly shows the level of seriousness the conference has about the sport.
For the first time in program history Johns Hopkins is in a conference, leaving no more independents in Division I lacrosse. It truly is a historic move in a historic time for college lacrosse, a time that has seen new programs be formed, new conferences picking up the sport, and all around greater growth than the sport has seen before. This is just the latest news out of a very exciting few years.
Big Ten lacrosse is going to be top notch. All that’s left to say is, get ready lacrosse world.