Conference Realignment: Bellarmine, Air Force Reportedly Seeking Atlantic Sun Membership

Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

And Hobart has interesting options.

The dream of Conference SB Nation -- the most perfect of unions, an idea (cult) that was to redefine (exploit the efforts of others) the Division I lacrosse landscape (via money laundering) -- is rapidly dying. This is probably a good thing for everybody and everything (heathens that don't believe in the path to a lacrosse revelation) that isn't associated with Conference SB Nation. The handful of teams that could have potentially served as the cornerstone to the league -- Air Force, Bellarmine, and Hobart, the left-behinds from the demise of the ECAC -- are potentially on the move to different concerns that don't even have as part of their mission statement the need to dodge the robot apocalypse and reinherit Earth after unenlightened humans have been washed from the face of the planet. That's shortsighted thinking.

As Corey McLaughlin notes in Lacrosse Magazine, the ECAC's remaining trio are potentially en route to safe houses while the remains of their former league are raided for a final time:

"I have reached out to the Atlantic Sun commissioner [Ted Gumbart] in an effort to join the Atlantic Sun as an affiliate member for lacrosse," said Air Force associate athletic director George Nelson, the administrator for lacrosse at Air Force. "They have not approached us but there has been discussion among some of the coaches. We would love to be members of the conference beginning in 2015 and our next step may be to call the athletic directors for support."

Meanwhile, Bellarmine is in serious talks with the Atlantic Sun and an official announcement on its membership could come in the next two weeks, sources said. The move to the Atlantic Sun would make sense for Bellarmine with its location in Louisville, Ky., and the fact that the new league already has six teams and is immediately eligible for an automatic qualifying berth to the NCAA tournament. The berth will go to the winner of the conference championship.

Another source said Hobart has been approached by the Northeast Conference (NEC) and America East about possible lacrosse membership. With Quinnipiac leaving the NEC for the MAAC and Monmouth starting its first men's lacrosse season in the MAAC in 2014, the NEC is down to five teams for next season, one short of the six needed to remain eligible for an NCAA tournament automatic qualifier. The America East is scheduled to have as its men's programs in 2015: Albany, Binghamton, Hartford, Stony Brook, UMass Lowell, UMBC and Vermont.

Bellarmine in the Atlantic Sun makes all kinds of sense; I'm almost surprised that the league and the Knights hadn't come to an agreement to affiliate immediately following the departures of Loyola, Denver, and Fairfield from the ECAC. Bellarmine can come into that league and immediately compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament as the conference's auto-bid representative. The Knights may have stronger competitive desires than what the Atlantic Sun will potentially provide at the outset (this is still a conference that is heavily influenced with new, developing programs), but it's a good spot for a Knights program that is, itself, finding its footing in the Division I lacrosse landscape.

As for Air Force potentially following Bellarmine to a southeast-flavored conference, I'm still a little skeptical that both parties will pull the trigger on this without deep inquiry. I'm not saying that the Falcons won't end up in the Atlantic Sun; rather, Air Force is a different kind of animal -- in location, volition, and purpose -- compared to the league's current membership. I don't know where Air Force ends up in all of this (I'm sure that the Falcons have cast a wide net in its conference affiliation search), but I wouldn't be totally shocked if the Falcons end up in the Atlantic Sun. I just don't think that the league brings Air Force in the fold at the same time that it -- assumedly -- brings Bellarmine aboard (if the Falcons come aboard at all).

With respect to Hobart, the most interesting aspect of the news about the Statesmen's potential future home is that the America East has reached out to the school to gauge Hobart's interest in joining the conference as a lacrosse-playing member. The America East would be a great destination for Hobart given the league's depth compared to the overall strength of the NEC, but it does raise an interesting question: The America East is already set with six schools and Massachusetts-Lowell on the way; is the league reaching out to Hobart to strengthen their lacrosse concern (by ballooning to eight members) or is the league making this inquiry because it's worried about a school or two (pertinently Albany and Stony Brook, given their football interests and overall drive to increase their athletics exposure) potentially leaving the league down the line? Or is the league doing both? That's probably something to keep an eye on.

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