Just when you thought the conference realignment train had finally come to a halt, we learned that Johns Hopkins, who has been an independent in lacrosse for the last 130 years, is set to announce their intention to join the Big Ten in Men's Lacrosse, most likely in 2014, according to Ed Lee of the Baltimore Sun. Hopkins' women's lacrosse team will not be joining the Big Ten, after recently leaving the American Lacrosse Conference, and will become an independent as planned.
This is significant for Maryland and the Big Ten, as it will give the conference the sixth team necessary to gain an automatic qualifier from the conference for the NCAA tournament. Hopkins will join Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State, Rutgers, and Michigan as schools participating in men's lacrosse in the Big Ten. That was likely an important consideration for Hopkins, who missed the NCAA tournament this season for the first time in 41 years. This would provide them with another way to get into the NCAA tournament, aside from an at-large big that they had to rely on previously as an independent.
Ed Lee disclosed so interesting terms of Hopkins' agreement to join the Big Ten. They seem to indicate that Hopkins joining is almost a test drive to see how they like being in a conference.
The university's affiliation with a conference included several criteria. They include an initial membership term of five years, an option to extend membership after the first three years, a guarantee that the university's affiliation would remain unchanged despite movement within the conference, and a guarantee that the school's contractual agreement with ESPNU would not be impacted.
So if things don't work out, Hopkins could leave the Big Ten as early as 2019 (assuming they join in 2014) but could extend their membership in the conference as soon as 2017. Very interesting and unique approach.
Another issue for Hopkins and the Big Ten is the Blue Jay's TV deal with ESPN U, which goes through 2017, since the Big Ten has their own network. I'm sure this is something they've previously discussed, but it will be interesting to see how that gets resolved.
It also remains unclear as to whether Hopkins joining the Big Ten would mean they'd also be participating in the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the academic research collaboration between the Big Ten schools and the University of Chicago. Adding Hopkins to that would obviously provide a huge benefit as well. I assume we'll learn more about that during today's press conference, which is set to begin at 11:00.
Most importantly, this announcement means that Maryland and Johns Hopkins will continue their annual rivalry and give Maryland their closest conference opponent in the Big Ten. It will also give the Big Ten some added muscle to compete with the ACC, which is adding Syracuse and Notre Dame to an already dominant lacrosse conference.