Conference Realignment: MAAC Raids NEC for Quinnipiac and Monmouth

Division I college lacrosse conferences, basically. - Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

What, the MAAC doesn't want to play with Wagner yet? Tragic.

I don't even know what the hell is going on anymore. I'm a pretty bright guy -- bachelor of arts from a respected undergraduate institution, juris doctor with honors, a career that has, somehow, seen me become a nationally-relevant professional in my firm -- and yet the news today that the MAAC decided to raid the Northeast Conference for Quinnipiac and Monmouth leaves me hunched in my chair looking for the bottle of bourbon I keep locked in a desk drawer, pulling it out for comfort in times of crisis, total confusion, or just because it's there and I don't want it to sit lonely in the dark. I'm sure there's a reason that the MAAC has folded these two schools into their reality, but what that reason is -- hoops concerns, I'd guess, but hopefully more than "Welp!" -- remains unclear to me right now on the lacrosse side of things.

Anyway, here's the story about the two schools moving into MAAC territory for the 2013-2014 season:

Monmouth and Quinnipiac have accepted invitations to join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, a source within the league told CBSSports.com Friday.

The two schools are currently part of the Northeast Conference but would join the MAAC beginning for the 2013-14 season.

It hasn't been explicitly stated, but it appears as if Quinnipiac and Monmouth -- from a report in the Hartford Courant and from Monmouth's press release -- will move their lacrosse pursuits from the NEC to the MAAC along with other sports that the MAAC sponsors. (I guess the MAAC naming lacrosse a "core sport" really pushed each school over the edge to switch leagues. In other important lies. . . .)

As this is a bad vaudeville and humor magazine masquerading as a college lacrosse site, some bullet point thoughts are probably in order around the MAAC's corruption of the NEC:

  • This move makes no sense for the three new MAAC schools when viewed in the context of lacrosse concerns. Quinnipiac fled the ECAC to join up with its NEC pals for, presumably, and easier path to a potential NCAA Tournament berth. Monmouth is a new program that hasn't even begun play yet; accordingly, they really can't have a head shook in their direction for anything more than the fact that its situation in the MAAC may or may not be better than it was in the NEC. Why would Quinnipiac wallow in a no-bid lacrosse league for two years, formed (in part) so that it could eventually have an easier road to May, and then gladly ditch that as soon as the NEC earned its automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament? It's just silly on the lacrosse side of things.
  • To dovetail that last point: The MAAC isn't much stronger than the NEC anyway, so it likely has little impact in the overall in terms of whether these two schools have a golden road to May. This, however, will not inhibit my desire to stand on a soapbox and question the move for lacrosse purposes.
  • The NEC is in much the same position of the schools that are part of/departing the Big East. With these two schools departing the league, the conference will -- after the moves -- only have a constitution of five teams, one fewer than the mandatory threshold of six to earn an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. What happens as a result is, of course, opaque; the standard responses of "expansion through lacrosse-only confederation," "make all these teams the problem of another conference," "elevate a program already in the league," and "independence" are on the table. This situation is further complicated by the fact that Quinnipiac and Monmouth will depart the NEC for the MAAC after this spring season. The problem with these responses with respect to the NEC, though, is that the NEC has little clout outside of some nice things happening at Bryant, Mount St. Mary's, and Robert Morris. Attracting teams into that league to ensure that it will keep its auto-bid status is a difficult thing to imagine. Then again, Quinnipiac and Monmouth just left the NEC for the MAAC so anything is possible on the spectrum of "makes no sense" to "whatever." I'd have to think that at rightthisverysecond that the NEC -- to save itself for auto-bid purposes -- is dead unless it can find an associate member somewhere by, like, tomorrow given the compressed timeline of these schools' departures.
  • CRAZY HEAD TRAUMA THEORY: The MAAC provides a soft landing, for lacrosse-only purposes, the left-behind NEC lacrosse schools: Bryant, Robert Morris, Mount St. Mary's, Sacred Heart, and Wagner thereby making everyone's eyes bleed. This would grow the MAAC's membership -- assuming it doesn't try to chase other schools impacted by realignment (I'm looking at you, former Big East folks) -- to a solid 14, easily the most unwieldy thing ever conceived. Also, it'd be the perfect circular instance of conference realignment, perfectly encapsulating all this nonsense that is currently going on.
  • It's going to be interesting to see if any other league sniffs around at some of the NEC left-behinds if the NEC can't seem to reorganize itself. I have no idea where these schools would end up -- in an established conference? in a totally new league? -- but I'd think that for lacrosse purposes at least Bryant, Robert Morris, and Mount St. Mary's would generate at least a little interest.
  • Is anyone else eyeing the America East and wondering what is going to happen there? If we're already in trickle-down territory, maybe some of the antsiness around Stony Brook and Albany could re-emerge. This is where things get really messy, people.

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