On this second weekend of the NCAA lacrosse tournament, everyone who watches/follows and reports on lacrosse is probably paying close attention to a team that didn't even make the tournament this year. Johns Hopkins University, the sport's most storied program, is officially looking into joining a conference. Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels announced the decision in a letter to the university on Friday. The Jays missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in 41 years, and now seem to recognize that conference affiliation will help prevent that from happening in the future.
The school's Blue Ribbon Committee to Study Conference Alignment for the Men's Lacrosse Team made the recommendation to Daniels, who then said,
The committee's unanimous conclusion...is that Johns Hopkins and its men's lacrosse student-athletes would best be served by our seeking affiliation for men's lacrosse only with an NCAA Division I conference.
I agree with the committee's analysis and have accepted its recommendations.
Considering the fact that they've been playing lacrosse as an independent for 130 years, Friday's announcement is huge. There are four criteria that they would like to see met in order for an affiliation to take place:
1. An initial membership term of five years.
2. An opportunity to evaluate Johns Hopkins' position in the conference after three years, at which point the option would exist to either extend the initial agreement or to part ways at the conclusion of the initial agreement.
3. A guarantee that a decision by an existing full member of the conference to sponsor the sport of men's lacrosse or the addition to the conference of a full member that sponsors men's lacrosse will not jeopardize Johns Hopkins' affiliation with the league.
4. The ability for Johns Hopkins to maintain its existing television broadcasting relationship with ESPNU.
The criteria are interesting, specifically number three. This is pointed directly at the Big Ten, where there are rumblings of sponsoring a league, and getting other schools such as Minnesota and Michigan State to elevate their programs. The question then becomes the Hopkins relationship with ESPNU and what happens with the Big Ten Network. Who shows Hopkins games, and when? That's a question best answered by those who are in a position to screw things up, so I will leave it to them. However, I'm sure that some sort of deal could be reached with ESPNU showcasing any games at Homewood Field, while BTN covers everything else. Having BTN televise more lacrosse can only benefit the sport and its expansion into the Midwest and West. Ohio State, via the ECAC, already is playing in this weekend's quarter finals, so the league has already shown success...albeit in a roundabout way. Plus, Penn State also made it into the tourney. That's not too bad considering it's only a sixteen team field.