June 16, 2008
by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
Has Division I men's lacrosse become too big for its britches?
Last week, the Big East formalized its plans to sponsor a men's lacrosse conference beginning in 2010 and unite the likes of Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Syracuse and Villanova under its governance, a decision met with widespread enthusiasm.
If officials are not careful, however, the impending realignment could get messy.
Coupled with last month's announcement that Mount St. Mary's (MAAC), Quinnipiac (GWLL), Robert Morris (CAA), Sacred Heart (CAA), and Wagner (MAAC) will end their current affiliations to join Bryant in a new Northeast Conference in 2011, the CAA and GWLL stood to drop below the six-team minimum for NCAA tournament automatic qualification.
But the CAA announced Monday that Massachusetts and Penn State have been added to its men's lacrosse slate, with those teams joining in 2010, which puts the ECAC in peril.
The hard and fast solution appears to be that the GWLL holdovers will fold into the ECAC, forging a new conference with logistical challenges of its own. According to Loyola head coach Charlie Toomey, the merger discussions include Fairfield, Hobart and Loyola of the ECAC and Air Force, Denver and Ohio State of the GWLL.
Bellarmine, a GWLL member in Louisville, Ky., and Detroit Mercy, expected to join the GWLL when it debuts next year, could be the odd men out. Not all ECAC schools are on board with their inclusion in the merger due to geographic challenges. The ECAC has scheduled a conference call Tuesday, with a coaches-only call expected later this week.
"Priority number one is, let's get six teams on board and solidify this AQ," Toomey said Monday. "Then, we'll look at reaching out to a seventh or eighth team in the league."
Bellarmine head coach Jack McGetrick took umbrage to the potential snub.
"How much of it is conjecture and how much of it is truth? At this point, who knows? I know my athletic director has been contacted by the ECAC, which is good news to me," McGetrick said. "On the other hand, I've heard there are schools that frown upon Bellarmine merging with those teams, that the market here isn't great for lacrosse and is inconvenient for travel...I'm a little offended. I'd like a chance to kick their butts, to tell you the truth."
Bellarmine athletic director Scott Wiegandt is on vacation this week and was not immediately available for comment. Nor was ECAC commissioner Rudy Keeling, with conference officials out of the office this week, according to an administrative assistant.
The Knights finished 7-7 in 2008, their first season in a new $5.1 million multi-sport, on-campus stadium.
"We'd welcome the opportunity to get in a conference with those schools. Give us the opportunity to step up," McGetrick said. "I mean, we [lost] 14-12 to Denver last year, and they were dancing with Maryland in the NCAA tournament."
Of course, realignment won't be the only major modification in men's lacrosse in 2010. Among other developments, Jacksonville (Fla.) University will become the 60th Division I school to sponsor the sport, and new NCAA stick regulations go into effect the same year. And which city gets the bid for the ever-growing NCAA men's lacrosse championships - Baltimore? Philadelphia? East Rutherford? Columbus? Denver?
"For us, it's a brand new stadium off campus with lights and playing night games," Toomey said. "A lot of things are in play for 2010 with the growth of our sport - including, hopefully, a few more college programs announcing."
That's the ticket.
There's no guarantee that the sport's growth at the Division I level will be any less stunted than it has been since 1981, when Notre Dame became the last BCS football-sponsoring institution to add men's lacrosse.
"Michigan's on the verge; Brigham Young is on the cusp. I can't predict the future, but I think within the next five years, there's bound to be more growth at the Division I level," McGetrick said.
Virginia's Julie Myers is having some early success in the Class of 2010 women's lacrosse recruiting race.
Myers has already secured at least three verbal commitments from the Mid Atlantic team that captured the Schoolgirls Division of the US Lacrosse Women's Division National Tournament at the McDonogh (Md.) School over Memorial Day Weekend.
Kelly Austin, the 2008 recipient of the Heather Leigh Albert Award as the top player in the Schoolgirls Division at the event, committed to Virginia earlier this month. Austin, a rising senior at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes (Md.), was a first team All-Metro selection by the Washington Post, the only junior so honored, after leading the Saints to a perfect 26-0 season by scoring a team-high 84 goals.
Austin said that Erin Laschinger, a rising senior at Notre Dame Prep (Md.), has also committed to the Cavaliers. Laschinger scored a team-high 48 goals this spring and was a first team All-Metro selection by the Baltimore Sun.
Kim Kolarik, a rising senior at South River (Md.), has also committed to Virginia. Kolarik was an honorable mention All-Metro selection by the Washington Post.
Princeton drops Virginia from schedule
"Princeton and Virginia renew one of the great rivalries in the modern era of college lacrosse," read Princeton's press release prior to this year's men's lacrosse game between the two schools.
Princeton has dropped Virginia from its schedule for the 2009 season, ending a series that has been played every year since 1992. The 2008 game between the two schools was televised nationally on ESPN, the first regular season men's lacrosse game broadcast on the network's flagship station. Virginia won that game, 12-10, its fourth consecutive win in the series and sixth in the last seven years. Princeton's only win over Virginia since 2002 was an 8-7 win in 2004, the year Virginia finished just 5-8.
Virginia will replace Princeton on its schedule with Cornell. Virginia has not played the Big Red since the 2002 NCAA tournament (an 11-10 UVA win in the quarterfinals) and the two schools have only met just once in the regular season (1971).
Contact Matt DaSilva at email@example.com.
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