The IMLCA Convention -- a college coaches convention and pot luck bazaar (that last part may not be true) -- is happening this extended weekend in Baltimore. The convention schedule is packed with all kinds of interesting things for people that blow whistles and wear polo shirts with school insignias on them, but as Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse notes in his first dispatch from the meetings, the early chatter has centered around conference realignment and, more specifically, the "Johns Hopkins Situation."
While the lingering question is the future of the ACC — specifically whether Virginia and North Carolina will leave for the Big Ten as has been speculated or, in some cases, reported — most in attendance this weekend realize that’s out of their control. Much more within control of lacrosse circles is Johns Hopkins’ conference future. Word is that the Blue Jays have received inquiries about joining at least three conferences, including the Big East, the ECAC and a third that wasn’t as clear.
Another expressed thought at the Convention is that the Blue Jays become the Big Ten’s sixth men’s lacrosse member as an associate which, though it’s apparently against conference bylaws right now, an athletic department official in attendance said lacrosse-playing members could and likely will appeal to Commissioner Jim Delany for an exception if, upon Rutgers’ and Maryland’s arrival, there are five Big Ten teams.
Obviously, any conference movement involving Johns Hopkins would require the assent of the program and Blue Jay coach Dave Pietramala, and when asked during his on-camera interview with IL Thursday, he said though they haven’t had serious conversations about joining a league, it was something they’d consider and continually evaluate.
Ay-yi-yi. This stuff will never, ever end. [Puts on a sweater, adjusts glasses, turns to the grandchild on my knee.] Back in my day Johns Hopkins' conference situation was clear: They were an independent, and they liked it! We'd walk uphill -- both ways! -- to Homewood Field in a tattered pair of shoes, talking about how the Blue Jays were just like Notre Dame in football and nothing could change that! Nope! And then we'd eat nothing but bread and soup at Homewood Field as we'd watch Hopkins because that's all we had but we liked it! Yes, boy. Those were the days of independence, not beholden to anybody.
Anyway, the entire Johns-Hopkins-melts-faces-by-joining-a-conference thing seems, still, a little opaque; the Blue Jays would need significant incentive to potentially abandon its ESPNU deal and its relative scheduling flexibility to join up with the Big East, ECAC, and whatever other league that is currently sending fruit baskets to the Cordish Center. The Big East is probably a little more desperate for the Jays to come aboard as an affiliated member due to the potential for the conference to fall below six members after the 2014 season should Rutgers push the league to waive its 27-month waiting period. Nothing hard, however, has come out as of yet about the Big East putting the full court press on the Jays to affiliate.
The ECAC is an interesting situation, but that league isn't -- at the moment -- hurting for members to keep its automatic qualifying status; the ECAC's conversations with Johns Hopkins may be built around a fear of the Big Ten pulling Ohio State and Michigan out of the fold, which coupled with the loss of Loyola to the Patriot League, would drop the conference to only five competiting members. (Although, with Richmond still unaffiliated at this moment, the ECAC could pursue the Spiders to keep its membership at six.) I'm sure that Hopkins would love having Denver on the schedule each year, but there are a lot of schools in that league that the Jays don't have much of a relationship with and could ultimately impact Hopkins' ability to keep some of its old friends on their yearly slates.
As for the note about Johns Hopkins potentially joining the Big Ten as a lacrosse-only member, I'll remain skeptical about that until there's a heavier cloud of smoke.
Regardless, we now wait like ninjas at the gate.