November 21, 2012

Terps' Reese Hopes for Big Ten Women's League

by Clare Lochary | | Twitter

Will Maryland and Northwestern soon square off in regular-season Big Ten play? It's possible. "I would to love see the Big Ten go towards having a lacrosse conference," Maryland women's coach Cathy Reese said.
© Lee Weissman

Maryland to Big Ten

* Tillman: We'll Wait and See
* Maryland, Rutgers Moves Will Shake Up Lacrosse

* Coaches React to Potential Big Ten Lacrosse

Maryland coach Cathy Reese isn't sure if the Terps' decision to join the Big Ten will lead to an official Big Ten women's lacrosse conference. But she hopes it will.

"When all of this stuff settles, I would to love see the Big Ten go towards having a lacrosse conference, but I have no idea," Reese said Tuesday. "All of this has come down so quickly. It's a great move. It's going to be great for us. It's just going to take time to iron out."

Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, announced Monday that it would join the Big Ten beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. On Tuesday, Rutgers announced that the Scarlet Knights would leave the Big East after 33 years and also join the Big Ten.

With the addition of Rutgers and Maryland, there are now six Big Ten institutions that sponsor varsity women's lacrosse, enough to meet league rules for sponsorship of a conference tournament and an automatic qualifying berth to the NCAA tournament to the winner. Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State already sponsor women's lacrosse, and play in the American Lacrosse Conference (ALC) with Florida, Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays will leave the ALC in 2014 to become an independent.

"As bummed as I am to leave something great, the landscape's changing and the exposure's going to be outstanding for us," Reese said.

A Big Ten spokesperson on Monday said a decision on if or when Big Ten women's lacrosse will be sponsored is "still TBD," and at a press conference on Monday announcing Maryland's conference switch, Terps athletic director Kevin Anderson only said "We have several plans that we could put in place," in response to a question about the future of the Maryland men's and women's lacrosse programs.

Reese declined to say what path the program would take if a Big Ten lacrosse conference does not form, such as seeking an associate membership in another conference or becoming an independent. She said that she hopes that, regardless of how conference realignment shakes out, the Terps would be able to preserve some of their historic ACC rivalries with Duke and North Carolina. The ACC has long been a power conference in women's lacrosse and will remain so even with the departure of Maryland, the winner of 10 NCAA championships. Syracuse will join the ACC in the 2013-2014 school year, and Notre Dame is set to join the conference as well.

The Big East faces a more problematic future. With the loss of Rutgers, the Big East will be down to five women's lacrosse teams, which does not meet the NCAA minimum of six to merit an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament. In addition to the Orange and the Irish, the Big East recently lost an affiliate member in Loyola, which in August announced its decision to join the Patriot League beginning in 2013.

For Maryland, the existence of Big Ten lacrosse would bring the benefit of additional television exposure via the Big Ten Network. It would also bring the chance to play archrival Northwestern on an annual basis. The teams haven't played during the regular season since 2007. The Terps are 1-2 against the Wildcats in their last three meetings, with all three games were played in the NCAA tournament. Most recently, the Wildcats prevailed over the Terps in the 2012 NCAA semifinal, winning 9-7. They met in the NCAA championship the previous two years, with the Wildcats winning in 2011 and the Terps in 2010.

Maryland is 7-4, for a .871 winning percentage, against ACC teams over the past five years. Versus teams whose primary affiliation is the Big Ten, their record is 6-2 (.750). The two losses were to Northwestern.

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