Lacrosse has many nicknames. The Fastest Sport on Two Feet. America’s First Sport. But the one that has perhaps carried the most weight is “The Fastest Growing Sport in America,” even if the attendance numbers at Championship Weekend haven’t exactly backed that up. However, the case for lacrosse received a big assist this week when the sports’ winngest program, Johns Hopkins University, announced it would be joining the Big Ten Conference as it’s sixth team in 2015, thereby giving birth to B1G Lacrosse.
JHU, Maryland and Rutgers will join B1G mainstays Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State to create another power conference in the landscape of college lacrosse to compete with the sport’s version of the SEC, the Atlantic Coast Conference. Thanks to the ever-shifting landscape of college sports, the ACC will add Syracuse and Notre Dame — two of the sport’s powers — to the already history-rich trio of North Carolina, Virginia and Duke.
Long the bullies of the lacrosse world, Syracuse and the ACC will now have a midwest-based opposition to deal with that features programs that were growing exponentially without the benefit of the B1G branding. Now with the B1G conference firmly behind the sport, programs like Ohio State and Penn State will grow into even bigger players in the sport as the talent that would normally look for the fierce week-in, week-out competition of the ACC or tradition of Syracuse will look to the B1G as an intriguing new opportunity.
What has led to the exponential growth of college football and basketball is the seemingly endless list of programs that can compete for a conference or national championship every year. Some call it “parity” but I perfer to think of it as “variety.” Players interested in being on TV can go wherever they want. The same will now be the case for lacrosse as the B1G Network will certainly be carrying the conference’s contests throughout the country.
(Sidenote: Imagine Gus Johnson calling lacrosse…excited yet?)
The back-to-back appearances of Denver at championship weekend has done wonders for the growth of the game west of the Appalachians and into the Rocky Mountains. But when it comes to the games played between the mountain ranges the results have been just that, in-between. The B1G is a brand ready to give birth to another generation of lacrosse players eager to suit up for their hometown teams whether it’s in Ann Arbor, College Park or Columbus.
Johns Hopkins may have looked into this move for the selfish reason of making sure they have a way into the NCAA Tournament in case future seasons work out the way this past season did. But the result of this move means more for the sport of lacrosse than it does for Dave Pietramala and the Blue Jays.
One thing is certain. 2015 can’t come soon enough.