These days collegiate conferences are constantly changing, largely due to the money involved in the big sports like football. One of the conferences that has experienced the most turmoil of late is the Big East, which has seen some of their top football programs leave to find greener pastures.
To replace programs like Syracuse, Louisville, West Virginia, and Rutgers the conference has brought in a group of new schools, largely from Conference USA. Houston, SMU, Tulane, Navy, and ECU are all slated to join (with Navy and ECU serving as football only members). As a Big East lacrosse fan it felt like you were just along for the ride, as Big East lacrosse lost Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Rutgers. None of the new members had Division I lacrosse teams.
That being said, Big East lacrosse never seemed to be in danger. There were still other programs left, and they were slated to add a new one in Marquette next season. However, now it is basketball that could be messing with Big East lacrosse.
The seven catholic schools that belong to the Big East are slated to split with the conference as soon at 2014. These schools include Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Marquette, DePaul, and Villanova. They are reportedly looking to start a new conference and have contacted schools like Xavier and Butler.
What does that mean for our sport? By 2014 there would be no school in the Big East supporting a varsity lacrosse program.
With Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Rutgers all announcing their departure earlier this year the only remaining lacrosse members were catholic schools, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Marquette, and Villanova. All those schools are still together, but likely won’t remain in the Big East as lacrosse only members. The two sides aren’t exactly on good terms and a legal battle is likely to ensue.
The five departing schools, if they do form a new conference, would likely just stick together for lacrosse as well. Thus there wouldn’t be all that much change in the college lacrosse scene, only that they would be playing under a different name.
As for the Big East, they are apparently interested in adding UMass to the conference, but seeing as the Minutemen already play in the CAA as a lacrosse only member it’s unlikely to think they’d move to a now vacant Big East conference. New schools could be encouraged to add programs, but few are in geographic lacrosse hotspots. SMU is the only college of the bunch that has been rumored to be interested in lacrosse, but there haven’t been any official developments. Even if they did add a program, they would likely have to join another conference as a lacrosse only member unless other teams added programs as well.
When it comes down to it, the future of Big East lacrosse looks very bleak. This shouldn’t affect the lacrosse landscape all that violently, as many of the schools would likely stick together and the Big East doesn’t have its own television deal anyways. As a whole the conference seems to not be at that high level anyways, as most of their top programs in most sports are departing. Despite that though, it is nice to see a big name conference like the Big East involved in lacrosse so it’s never a positive to see it disappear.