June 03, 2013

On Monday the Big Ten Conference and Johns Hopkins announced that the school would be an affiliate member in men's lacrosse beginning with the 2015 season. Here are some key questions about the Blue Jays' move from independent status:

What does it mean to be an affiliate member?

Johns Hopkins is not a full member of the Big Ten because only the men's lacrosse team will participate in Division I in the league. The women's lacrosse team will remain in the American Lacrosse Conference for one more season before going independent, and the rest of the university's sports will stay at Division III. The men's lacrosse team will still be eligible to compete in a conference tournament and for consideration of individual awards.

Why did Johns Hopkins make the move now?

According to athletic director Tom Calder and coach Dave Pietramala, they began discussing conference membership as they watched Syracuse overcome a 7-7 regular-season record by capturing the Big East tournament and earning that league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament in 2012. That the Big Ten was searching for a sixth member to field enough teams to earn its own automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament made it easy for both parties to reach a partnership.

What are the benefits to the school?

The most obvious benefit is that the Blue Jays will be able to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament via an at-large berth or capturing the Big Ten tournament. The program will get more exposure in states where Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers play, and potential recruits in those areas will get a firsthand look at Johns Hopkins. The conference has also said that Hopkins can continue its affiliation with ESPNU even though the Big Ten Network televises lacrosse games.

What are the risks?

There's not a lot of risk involved because the Blue Jays are practically a lock to make the Big Ten tournament as long as they finish in the top four of the league standings. However, one concern is maintaining traditional rivalries with much-anticipated opponents like Syracuse, Virginia and North Carolina. But retaining those contests are a priority for Pietramala. Another issue is the level of competition in the Big Ten. Michigan is a relatively new program, Rutgers has been down, but Penn State and Ohio State were in the NCAA Tournament. We know how good Maryland usually is.

What does it mean to Johns Hopkins' local rivalries with Maryland, Loyola, Navy, Towson and UMBC?

With the Terps in the same conference, the Blue Jays will continue Division I's longest series. The worry is that by joining the Big Ten, the rivalries with Loyola, Navy, Towson and UMBC could be impacted. But as long as both sides can agree on dates, those series could continue. Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey has already said that he is optimistic that Loyola and Johns Hopkins will maintain their rivalry.

Why isn't the women's team also joining the Big Ten?

The women have one more year in the American Lacrosse Conference before going independent. Calder said the team wants to try its hand at being independent before making a decision about another conference. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said he offered to make inquiries about the women's program joining Maryland, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers, but Calder declined.

Ed Lee

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