STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The Big Ten is adding lacrosse as a sport in 2015 and welcoming powerhouse Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member for men's lacrosse only, two moves that could further boost the profile of the conference in the East.
The addition of men's and women's lacrosse will increase the number of league sports to 28. Lacrosse has a strong following in much of the East and mid-Atlantic regions.
"Johns Hopkins is an outstanding institution with a legacy of success in men's lacrosse that is simply unmatched in intercollegiate athletics," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said Monday. "Lacrosse is an emerging sport among our current schools and is a long-held passion among our East Coast institutions."
Both the men's and women's lacrosse leagues will include Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. Maryland and Rutgers officially join the conference starting in 2014.
Six teams are required to hold a conference championship, so adding Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member brings the Big Ten to the minimum number for men's lacrosse. The sixth team on the women's side will be current Big Ten member Northwestern
"This decision may represent the single greatest change in Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse in more than a century," Johns Hopkins president Ronald Daniels said. "I am grateful for the thoughtful process that has led us to this historic place, and I am confident in the success of our shared endeavor in the years to come."
The Blue Jays have been playing men's lacrosse as an independent since the program's inception in 1883. Johns Hopkins has won nine NCAA titles, though the program had its streak of 41 consecutive postseason appearances snapped this year. Miami baseball, which extended its NCAA tournament streak to 41 this season, is now tied with Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse for most consecutive appearances in an NCAA tournament.
Still, adding a school with Johns Hopkins' credentials is a big step for the Big Ten's fledgling lacrosse league According to the school, Johns Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder and men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala began discussing conference affiliation in spring 2012. They said national realignment was making scheduling more challenging, and that they needed to explore options that would give the school a chance to secure an automatic NCAA bid.
Maryland and Johns Hopkins have competed in men's lacrosse since 1895. The Terrapins have won two men's NCAA titles and their 36 tournament appearances trail only the 41 for Hopkins.
The men's and women's programs at Penn State are on the rise after both teams advanced to the NCAA tournament this season.
"Men's and women's lacrosse has a long and successful tradition at Penn State and in the mid-Atlantic and we embrace the opportunity to help lacrosse continue to rapidly grow throughout the country," Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner said.
The Big Ten is also adding men's hockey this fall. The move was made possible after Penn State elevated its club hockey program to Division I and joined Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin in the new Big Ten league.