During last week's lacrosse match-up between Michigan and Colgate, the ESPNU commentators debated the subject of a Big Ten lacrosse league...and who should be in this league. With Maryland and Rutgers entering the fray soon, this leaves the Big Ten schools with five teams (Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State rounding out the group), one short of the six required to become an AQ conference.
Who would/should be the sixth member of the conference? Marquette? Johns Hopkins? Some other yet to be determined Big Ten school? Michigan State had a D1 program until they dropped it in 1995 and are currently on the club level, as are Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. So, what should the Big Ten do? The conference should look at consolidating its members and fostering a continued growth at the high school level in the Midwest. There has been some talk over adding Johns Hopkins to the conference. The purpose of adding Hopkins would be just for the sake of adding another power program...a name. This would be a mistake. Lacrosse is a sport that has grown a great deal in the last twenty years, and its growth is spreading west; the University of Denver has proven that a very good program can be built west of the Mississippi (they made it to the Final Four in 2011).
Adding Maryland means that the Baltimore/Washington area is covered, so trying to get Hopkins to convert is, again, just looking for a name. Adding a program like Marquette, who is also new to the scene, would be more beneficial as it keeps local kids home. Look at some of the rosters around the country and you'll see kids from the Midwest going east and to the historically great programs.There are even plenty of kids heading east from California, Arizona, and Oregon. Of course, east is where the power is situated. Who wouldn't want to play for the best? But, working at cultivating what you have in your own back yard is the way to become great, or at least competitive.
Reclaiming what is ours, in the way of teams and talent will help lacrosse to continue growing in the Midwest, and it will help the Big Ten as a conference. This is an opportunity that should not be missed by the A.D.s of this conference; promote the schools, the kids, and the programs. Have lacrosse camps at the universities to increase awareness, and to let the local kids know that there is a place nearby that wants them to stay home. Uncle LAX Wants You! The answer to who needs whom is: lacrosse and the Big Ten need each other, and will have a long, happy, and successful relationship.