The Big Ten is adding more sports.
The conference announced Monday the addition of men’s and women’s lacrosse to the conference fold, also welcoming in Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member for men’s lacrosse.
The moves should help strengthen the conference on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region, where lacrosse is very popular, and also help grow the sport in the midwest.
The Big Ten will officially begin lacrosse, with Penn State a member for both the men’s and women’s leagues, in the spring of 2015, the same school year Rutgers and Maryland will be brought into the conference.
Conference rules stipulate there must be at least six member institutions with varsity teams to create a league for a sport, and the new member institutions and the affiliation of Johns Hopkins makes it possible.
“Men’s and women’s lacrosse has a long and successful tradition at Penn State and in the Mid-Atlantic and we embrace the opportunity to help lacrosse continue to rapidly grow throughout the country,” Penn State director of athletics Dr. David Joyner said. “We look forward to continuing to build partnerships with the other Big Ten schools sponsoring lacrosse. It’s a great pleasure to welcome Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member; an institution with tremendous academics and lacrosse achievement.”
The Blue Jays have a long and storied history in lacrosse, playing as a national independent in the sport since they began playing it at the Baltimore school in 1883. Johns Hopkins has won 44 national titles, nine NCAA crowns and, until this past season, had qualified for 41 straight NCAA tournaments. The streak is an NCAA record for consecutive tournament berths, matched this year by the Miami baseball team.
“Johns Hopkins is an outstanding institution with a legacy of success in men’s lacrosse that is simply unmatched in intercollegiate athletics,” Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany said. “Lacrosse is an emerging sport among our current schools and is a long-held passion among our East Coast institutions.”
Johns Hopkins had been in discussions with the Big Ten about the move since last spring after the ever-evolving landscape of conference reallignment and increasing difficulties in scheduling.
“This decision may represent the single greatest change in Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse in more than a century,” Johns Hopkins president Ronald J. Daniels said. “I am grateful for the thoughtful process that has led us to this historic place, and I am confident in the success of our shared endeavor in the years to come.”
In addition to the Blue Jays, Nittany Lions, Terrapins and Scarlet Knights, the conference also will include Michigan and Ohio State for men. The Wolverines began a men’s lacrosse program in 2012. The Nittany Lions, Terrapins and Buckeyes all earned NCAA tournament bids last month.
The Penn State men will play one final season in the colonial Athletic Association, which the Nittany Lions won this past season.
“Our staff is thrilled about the formation of the Big Ten Lacrosse Conference,” Nittany Lion men’s coach Jeff Tambroni said. “It is symbolic of the expansion of our sport and the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Penn State lacrosse.”
Johns Hopkins will not join for women’s lacrosse, but Northwestern, which also is a national power in the sport, will round out the six-team list.
The Penn State women were part of a three-way tie for first in the American Lacrosse Conference this spring, and also will play one more ALC season before the move. The team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals this past season before losing to the Wildcats.
“I am so excited for the future of Big Ten women’s lacrosse,” Nittany Lion women’s coach Missy Doherty said. “As our sport expands across the country, it has been great to see so many institutions value and embrace the sport. As a result, we now have lacrosse represented in one of the best conferences in the country. We’re grateful to the ALC for providing our program the opportunity to compete against the best teams in the nation and we’re looking forward to embracing our new role as a Big Ten program.”
The move, following the addition of men’s ice hockey this fall, brings the Big Ten to 28 sports with conference affiliations. Penn State has a team in each of them except women’s rowing.
The only Penn State sports which will not have Big Ten affiliation by 2015 will be fencing, which is independent; men’s volleyball, which plays in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association; and women’s ice hockey, which just became a varsity sport this past season and joined College Hockey America.