"Big Gulps, huh? Welp. See ya later!"
In my personal utopia, there would be no conferences in college lacrosse. With 63 (current) members in Division I lacrosse, everyone would just play who they wanted and when; it'd be a nation of independents, and all the problems of shrunken at-large NCAA Tournament opportunities would disappear as everyone would be working on the same plane. It would be an awesome marketplace, devoid of all this current shifting nonsense that lacrosse doesn't create but is subject to because football and basketball are things and, for whatever reason, nonprofit institutions dedicated first and foremost to education are worried about television sets and dump trucks full of money.
College lacrosse isn't college hoops or football; it doesn't suffer the same issues that those sports have relative to national tournaments and championships and the sort in deep participating pools. This isn't a sport that makes all of its decisions based on dollar signs and saturating exposure. It's just lacrosse, and that's what makes it great. Yet, it bears a disproportionate level pain compared to the drivers of conference realignment due to its subordinated status below basketball and football. It's all so incredibly dumb, and we're probably not finished with everything at this point. At least when lacrosse programs change conferences on their own volition -- Penn State leaving the ECAC for THUNDERDOME!; Bellarmine leaving independent status for the ECAC; etc. -- it's driven by lacrosse concerns; in this environment of superconference wallet-stuffing, that doesn't exist. And that stinks.
(The alternative to all this, of course, is that conferences are good; conferences allow programs to enter a situation where they can be supported and are urged to grow. With the money attendant in conference realignment pushed by football and basketball concerns, athletic departments that haven't sponsored Division I lacrosse will now -- potentially -- have the resources available to start varsity men's programs. That idea is somewhat correlated to supply-side economics, and its efficacy in college lacrosse isn't all that clear. Regardless, these are decent arguments in a vacuum and are as good as my above-whining.)
Anyway, Maryland officially decided today to leave the ACC -- a conference to which it was an original member when chartered in 1953 -- for the Big Ten Conference:
The University of Maryland's Board of Regents on Monday voted unanimously to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference and leave the Atlantic Coast Conference, sources told ESPN on Monday.
The board unanimously approved the move to the Big Ten, a regent told ESPN. An afternoon announcement is expected.
Sources also said that Rutgers is expected to follow the Terrapins and will announce its own move from the Big East to the Big Ten, possible as early as Tuesday. A Scarlet Knights move would give the Big Ten 14 members.
Rutgers' Board of Governors is holding a regularly schedule meeting Monday in New Brunswick, N.J.
Yippee. The only issues right now are timing and the such.
So now we wait to see what happens on the lacrosse side. The Big East -- following the departure of Rutgers -- is going to only have five playing members, one member short of the mandatory six to earn an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Where the league will go from here is unknown, and abandonment of the sport on the men's side is a possibility at this point. For the ACC, it will remain among the strongest conferences in the country, but it, too, will only have five participating members and no chance at an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament if things stay static for the league. This isn't as much of an issue for the ACC as it is for the Big East, but it's a bit of a change from a month or two ago when Notre Dame announced that it'd be joining the league and giving the ACC the requisite six schools to award one of its members a free pass to May without question.
FURTHER VIOLENTLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Conference Realignment: Maryland's Potential Move Creates Odd ACC Issues
Conference Realignment: The Big East is Boned
Conference Realignment: Maryland, Rutgers and the Great Unknown of Big Ten Lacrosse
Another Round of Realignment, Another Round of Picking Winners