Ay-yi-yi. Here we go again.
Loyola University -- the defending national champions -- are going to be smashing faces in different places in just over a year. As the university announced today, the Greyhounds -- on the heels of Boston University's announcement just over two months ago -- are leaving the confines of the ECAC for the Patriot League starting in the 2014 lacrosse season:
Loyola University Maryland has accepted an invitation to join the Patriot League at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic and athletic year.
"It is an honor to join the Patriot League's distinguished member institutions, all of which consistently demonstrate a profound commitment to excellence both in the classroom and on the field. That commitment is one we share at Loyola, and we see this move as a vital opportunity to continue to elevate our already outstanding athletics programs in keeping with our goal of becoming the nation's leading Catholic, comprehensive university," said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., Loyola's president.
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Currently, 16 of Loyola's teams compete in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, while men's lacrosse plays in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and women's lacrosse plays in the Big East. All of Loyola's NCAA Division I athletics teams will make the conference move with the exception of men's rowing. The Patriot League does not conduct a championship in the sport, but Loyola will continue to row a regionally competitive schedule.
This is a huge move, not only for Loyola, but for both the Patriot League and the ECAC as functioning collectives. With the addition of the 'Hounds, the Patriot League will move to nine lacrosse-playing members. That will create a little wonkiness in how the league's regular season schedule will work, but will continue to alleviate (hopefully) some of the tiebreaking madness that is inherent in conferences with a small number of participating members. While that level of insanity should become muted, there will continue to be the kind of beautiful chaos that has characterized the league the last few season: Lehigh, Bucknell, Army, Navy, and Colgate all have (or are developing) a strong lacrosse culture, and adding Loyola to the mix may elevate the Patriot League to a position of strength among the ACC and the Ivy League.
The ECAC, contrastingly, is going to take a nasty shot to the face with this move. A member since 2005 when it left independence for confederation, Loyola had become a cornerstone for the league, holding court with Denver as the league's flagship programs and providing a rising tide to teams like Ohio State and Fairfield. The ECAC won't lose its automatic NCAA Tournament bid with the Greyhounds' departure -- league membership will (potentially) stay at seven schools, one more than the mandated six for automatic invitation -- but the complexion of the conference will surely change. For a league that has seen a lot of transient membership over the years, Loyola's exodus may be more important than when Georgetown, Penn State, and Massachusetts left the conference to pursue other opportunities (given the nature of college lacrosse now relative to a half-decade ago).
So, yeah. I can't wait until Stony Brook and Albany decide to blow up the America East in grand fashion in, say, 35 minutes or so.