The Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse program is set to end 130 years of independence as the Big Ten announced on Monday the Blue Jays have been accepted as an affiliate member for men's lacrosse. In addition, the Big Ten will men's and women's lacrosse as official conference sports beginning in 2015.
The Big Ten will feature Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers, with Johns Hopkins participating in men's lacrosse and Northwestern competing in women's lacrosse.
The addition of Johns Hopkins ends months of speculation on whether the Jays would join a conference and where the program would end up. The new Big East was rumored to be a possibility given that the league was seeking a sixth member to join Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's and Villanova, but Denver filled that void last week.
The ACC also needs a sixth member to join Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia to retain an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament after Maryland leaves after next season.
The 44-time National Champion Hopkins lacrosse program comes into the Big Ten with its own television deal as well as a number of specific criteria for affiliation, including an initial five-year membership, an option to extend that membership and a guarantee that the school's membership will not change despite movement within the conference. I thought the Big Ten didn't go for partial membership, especially for program's with their own separate TV deal but whatever B1G you do you.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Big Ten adding lacrosse will likely send the sport into another full round of conference realignment; not unlike the effect the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference had on redefining college hockey's Division I conferences. Michigan and Ohio State will leave the ECAC for the Big Ten. Denver (to the Big East) and Loyola (to the Patriot League) will also leave the ECAC, leaving four programs -- Air Force, Bellarmine, Fairfield and Hobart -- to either rebuild the league or seek a new conference home.
This latest round of conference realignment also leaves the ACC as one of the few leagues without the six programs needed to receive an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. And while the finest collection of men's college lacrosse programs on the planet probably can get away without one, there's something to be said for even numbers and an expanded television inventory that includes more programming of America's oldest and fastest growing team sport.
It's just a shame that the ACC doesn't already have a member school with the facilities and natural recruiting grounds to bring the conference to an even six programs.