The Terrapins men’s and women’s lacrosse teams will follow the Johns Hopkins men’s team into a newly formed Big Ten lacrosse conference in 2015, athletic officials announced Monday afternoon.
The fate of the Terrapins lacrosse teams had been uncertain since November when the university announced its move to the Big Ten, a conference that at the time didn’t sponsor lacrosse as an official sport.
But after Johns Hopkins revealed Monday its men’s team would join the conference as a lacrosse affiliate member, ending its 130 years of league independence, things began to clear up for the Terps.
“It’s an exciting day for Maryland lacrosse, but also the sport of lacrosse in general, with the announcement of the Big Ten lacrosse league,” men’s coach John Tillman said in a conference call. “We’ll see some talented teams take the field, and some great competition.”
Athletics Director Kevin Anderson reached out to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany in December with the idea of creating a new men’s lacrosse league with the addition of Johns Hopkins.
Officials from the Big Ten had been interested in adding lacrosse, Delany said in a news conference at Johns Hopkins on Monday. The Blue Jays and the Terps would add high-quality competition to the league, he added. The men’s teams share one of the most celebrated rivalries in college lacrosse — they’ve played 103 times.
“[Anderson] just wanted to do what was best for the Big Ten conference and for the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams,” Tillman said. “We just sat down and went through a lot of different options. … We really left no stone unturned.”
The new league will have six teams on both the men’s and women’s sides, meaning the conference champion will earn an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament each year.
The men’s conference will include Rutgers, Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. Both the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions reached the NCAA tournament this season, though Michigan and Rutgers combined for just three total wins.
“It’s important for us to always play a difficult schedule,” Tillman said. “That’s the way it has always been at Maryland on the women’s and the men’s side.”
The women’s team will also join a strong six-member conference that was seemingly set in November. The conference was already home to other universities that competed in Division I women’s lacrosse: Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers.
The Terps women’s team plays Penn State annually and has competed with Northwestern, which has won seven of the past nine national titles, several times in the postseason.
“We’ll have the opportunity to develop new rivalries,” coach Cathy Reese said. “And one of the neat things for us is five of the six women’s lacrosse programs [in the Big Ten] are coached by Maryland alums.”
The Terps will compete in the ACC for the 2014 season. And Big Ten league officials are still working out factors such as scheduling, the formation of a Big Ten tournament and the presence of lacrosse on the Big Ten Network.
But both Reese and Tillman are excited for what lies ahead.
“The Big Ten, everything they’ve really put their mind to, they’ve done exceptionally well on all levels,” Tillman said. “It’s something that made us feel comfortable knowing that, ‘All right, we’re going to look at a lot of different options, but this really looks like a special one.’”