November 21, 2012

Coaches React to Big Ten Lacrosse Potential

by Clare Lochary and Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com

Michigan coach John Paul said of a potential Big Ten men's lacrosse conference: "To my knowledge, the Big Ten wouldn't go without six programs." That's the number of women's teams the Big Ten would have with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers.
© Lon Horwedel

* Related: Maryland, Rutgers Moves Will Shake Up Lacrosse

updated 11.20.2012 at 1.00 p.m.

With the news official that Maryland will join the Big Ten effective in 2014-15, and Rutgers will follow, with an announcement coming Tuesday, the lacrosse world has been abuzz about the possibility of Big Ten men's and women's lacrosse conferences.

Currently, the Big Ten does not sponsor lacrosse leagues, but the addition of Maryland and Rutgers would make for five Big Ten schools with the men's varsity sport (with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State) and six Big Ten schools with women's programs (with those schools and Northwestern), giving the women's side the ability to allow a conference championship with an automatic qualifying berth to the NCAA tournament. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship to be decided when six teams sponsor a particular sport.

Asked at a press conference Monday afternoon in College Park, Md., about the future of Maryland men's and women's lacrosse, Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson said, "[There are] several opportunities to put on the table for both our men and women. I discussed with both coaches that we have several plans that we could put in place,” and that he would discuss those options with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.

Lacrosse Magazine caught up with some Big Ten associated coaches for reaction on Monday.

Penn State women's coach Missy Doherty

What's your reaction to Maryland moving to the Big Ten?
It's super exciting. It's a great move for lacrosse. In general, lacrosse is moving across the country and to have lacrosse as a big sport in the Big Ten is just another avenue to spread the word about lacrosse. Other Big Ten schools are going to see lacrosse is a successful sport and one that's garnishing a lot of interest. Adding some successful programs to that conference can help with that. I think it's awesome.

What's the possibility of a Big Ten women's lacrosse conference?
To be honest, we're obviously going to be expecting that. The Big Ten is a tremendously supportive conference. Having six teams and the automatic bid is huge, and we're hoping for and expecting the Big Ten to make lacrosse another Big Ten sport. As far as we know, as of the 2014-2015 season Maryland will be a part of the Big Ten, and my hope is we'll be planning for that to be the first season of a Big Ten women's lacrosse conference.

On her alma mater leaving the ACC [Doherty is a 1997 Maryland graduate and won three NCAA titles there].
They just have to look what's best for their institution. There's a lot of tradition there but as sports grow, you're changing. I think there's moving to an awesome conference and it's going to be great.

Laura Brand-Sias of Rutgers would be the only non-Terp alum coaching in a potential Big Ten women's lacrosse conference ...
We'll try to see if we can weed her out and get another Terp in there. — CLARE LOCHARY

Michigan men's coach John Paul

Do you think Maryland and reportedly Rutgers joining the Big Ten will lead to a Big Ten men's lacrosse conference?
It's tricky for us because there is no Big Ten lacrosse yet, and even if we do add two programs we're not in a position to add conference lacrosse at this point. To my knowledge, the Big Ten wouldn't go without six programs. If we did get to six, we wouldn't decide that; the Big Ten would decide that. It's the same thing that happened with hockey with Penn State finally adding. For us, it's exciting. I love to see the Big Ten continuing to reach out into new markets, and continuing to grow. Revenues are the key to college sports in everything these days. It's going to not only increase that but also increase our conference footprint in key areas for our alums in general, certainly for lacrosse. We're excited about this, but it doesn't necessarily directly impact us at this point.

Does the fact that the Big Ten would have six women's teams influence the men's decision?
That's a Big Ten question. I have no idea. My gut tells me no; they would hold pretty fast with you have to have an AQ to be sponsored. That's what I would think.

What would the benefits of a Big Ten lacrosse conference be?
The Big Ten is arguably the most recognizable conference name in the country. That in itself is an incredibly strong brand, and it is our identity here. Every sport except two or three are part of the Big Ten. It's a huge part of every Big Ten school's identity. Internally and externally, it would be welcomed here at every level, from administration down, but at this point, we're still speculating about program's coming in and we're still quite a ways away from that happening.

What discussions have you had as far getting lacrosse on the Big Ten Network?
They did our Ohio State game last year, and they have right of first refusal, even though we're not a Big Ten sport, we're a Big Ten school. They have right a first refusal to any home Big Ten sporting event, and that includes lacrosse. We're hopeful that they're going to recognize the potential for the sport, and we're hopeful that they're going to be taking a hard look at lacrosse, with or without expansion, as a great TV product for them. We'll also serve a purpose to the Big Ten Network; we'll help expand the market.

When you brought Michigan from the club to varsity level was a Big Ten lacrosse conference in the discussion?
I think it was in the discussion that this was an eventuality, and it's a possibility, but I've always told people that in the short term, Big Ten lacrosse is going to happen because of conference expansion first. That has nothing to do with lacrosse, how those decisions are made. Because the Big Ten is such a big part of our identity, it's something that we've discussed around here, but we discussed it as ... if that ever happens, but in the meantime, as far as I can see, we're thrilled to be in the ECAC. I'm not just saying that. We landed in an outstanding conference that has an AQ that has some great programs in it. We like that situation. — COREY McLAUGHLIN

Penn State men's coach Jeff Tambroni

"I think it's great for the sport of lacrosse, because people are taking about it. I hope it will create more parity amongst leagues one day when we can eventually make a Big Ten lacrosse conference happen. I do believe it's eventually going to happen."

— Penn State men's coach Jeff Tambroni

How does Maryland's move to the Big Ten, with possibly Rutgers, affect the men's college lacrosse landscape?
It's tough to predict exactly how this is going to affect the landscape of a potential Big Ten Lacrosse conference. We would have five teams if all those dominoes fall. If nothing else, it brings a lot of attention to lacrosse within the Big Ten. Having a school as tradition-rich as Maryland can only help the expansion and potential expansion to the Big Ten. The other side of it is, we've in a very competitive CAA conference. Before we starting moving around — we only have four teams as of July of 2014 when Maryland moves on — and depending on what Rutgers does, that would still only give us five. There's too much to chance for us to have a five-team conference the way we play now [in the CAA] without an automatic qualifier. I don't know if going to change our situation. But if we were ever to get to that point where we could add a team to the Big Ten or bring a team from the outside in, it would really increase the notoriety of our sport. It could only help the growth of our sport. It would do nothing but benefit the sport of lacrosse.

I think it's great for the sport of lacrosse, because people are taking about it. I hope it will create more parity amongst leagues one day when we can eventually make a Big Ten Conference happen. I do believe it's eventually going to happen. That would be a great rival for the Ivy League, for the ECAC, Patriot and the ACC.

What's the potential for a five-team Big Ten men's conference?
There's potential, but the bottom line is I haven't even talked to our athletic director yet. I'm sure he and the other AD's are figuring everything out. As they go through the pecking order or sports — football, basketball, the rest — there's going to be a lot of things that they'll have to do to create order from the chaos that's going on right now. For some of these other sports, it might be easier because it's adding one team to an already formed league. There's more complexities to forming a league, sitting out for two years without an automatic qualifier, or the risk of going into a league with five teams without an automatic qualifier. I'm not sure any of us — Ohio State, Michigan or Penn State — would be in favor of that yet. If you ask them, they're comfortable in they're league and I know Penn State is comfortable in the CAA. If there were talks about a potential of a league with six teams and we could think a little more futuristic about what that would mean for Penn State, the Big Ten, and lacrosse, there's a lot of exciting possibilities with that. I'm sure those conversations will be had at some time in the future.

Football and financial considerations are driving these conference realignment moves. How strange is it to see Maryland pulled out of the ACC in lacrosse?
It's surreal. Looking back at the alignments that have gone on, the Syracuse and Notre Dame moves, most of the lacrosse-playing schools looked at that and saw that as a daunting task for the outside to get in. This breaks up a little bit of the ACC, which is healthy for the rest of lacrosse in terms of parity. I'm hoping that the end result here is that some other Big Ten schools look at the potential of forming a lacrosse Big Ten. As much as we value our association within the CAA and know how competitive it is, on our campus there's little to no recognition about what we're doing as a Big Ten school. The women do the same thing, even though the women's team plays in the finest lacrosse conference in the country, there's still little affiliation on campus with the ALC because of the fact we are a Big Ten school. For us, it would be nothing but a positive to add Maryland because of its tradition in the sport of lacrosse, but also because of its potential in the future in the Big Ten lacrosse conference. Then you maybe add Rutgers and hopefully another one and the possibilities are endless. — C.M.

Northwestern women's coach Kelly Amonte Hiller

I am excited to join the rest of the Big Ten Conference in welcoming the University of Maryland, my alma mater and a school that holds a special place in my heart. During my college experience and throughout my coaching career, I have always appreciated the school's tradition of excellence and its passionate fan base, and know that it will be a great fit in the Big Ten landscape. — C.L.

Michigan women's coach Jenny Ulehla

We are honored and excited to welcome the University of Maryland to the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten hit a "home run" by adding another distinguished academic institution with a historically strong athletic tradition. As a proud 1991 Maryland graduate, I couldn't be happier to have my alma mater join such a prestigious group of universities. This is a tremendous opportunity for the the future of Big Ten women's lacrosse. — C.L.

Ohio State women's coach Alexis Venechanos

As an alum and three-time NCAA Champion, I have so much respect and admiration for Maryland and think the Terps will be a great addition to the Big Ten. With the addition of Maryland, the conference gained another top notch academic school with an accomplished athletics program that includes one the most one of the most storied women's lacrosse program in NCAA history.

At this point, anything else is just speculation and as Kevin Anderson said, there are still multiple scenarios for the future of Maryland lacrosse. — C.L.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com for more on this developing story.


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