There's something special about conferences like the Patriot League and THUNDERDOME!. The lacrosse played in those leagues is exceptional, and the fact that those conferences are generally comprised of the under-elite with notable talent, skill, and competitiveness -- programs that have, on occasion, experienced the life of the ultra-elite but aren't quite in that caste -- makes following those leagues arguably more fun than simply staring at the top six teams in the country and wondering which will stand victorious on Memorial Monday.
Of course, the ACC is going to shatter that uniqueness to itty-bitty pieces next season when Notre Dame comes aboard to form the Death Star of lacrosse conferences. As Andy Katz and McSources at ESPN.com report, the Irish are going to dig a big canal or something from South Bend to the Atlantic Ocean in order to become members of the ACC starting next season (or they'll just give the Big East a bunch of cash delivered in a sack with a green dollar sign painted on it):
Notre Dame and the Big East have reached an agreement allowing the Fighting Irish to leave the league two years early and join the ACC on July 1, sources told ESPN.
Notre Dame will pay about $2.5 million to exit the league, sources told ESPN.
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The Fighting Irish's move to the ACC will be official, pending the expected approval from the Big East's presidents in a Tuesday morning teleconference. The league is expected to announce Notre Dame's departure by noon Tuesday.
Notre Dame announced last year it was joining the ACC in all sports except football.
The ACC had been planning for months to accommodate Notre Dame if it was able to join for the 2013-14 academic year.
Just because it can't be written on the Internet enough: Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Virginia -- all in the same league for one season. (Maryland will depart the ACC for the Big Ten for the 2014-2015 academic year.) There has never been anything like this in college lacrosse, and the likelihood that the ACC will -- even more than it does now -- completely engulf our collective interest is more definite than Bill Tierney expressing his distaste with various officials at decibel levels concomitant with trench warfare. It's big time lacrosse programs in a big time conference, each team setting aside five games next year to bludgeon each other for an opportunity to hoist the most valuable regular season title the ACC has ever offered. Then, of course, there is the ACC Tournament, which will actually become a real thing next year and not just an automatic trip to RPI-town where qualification for the playoffs requires only membership in the league.
Also: This obviously takes Notre Dame off the table for whatever plans the Catholic Seven have or had for developing a lacrosse arm to their basketball operations. Keep working those phones, athletic directors and conference presidents.
As for Johns Hopkins, the Jays are getting more overtly serious about conference affiliation. Hopkins has been rumored to be seriously considering joining a conference (notably the Big Ten, should that league pursue sponsoring men's lacrosse once Maryland and Rutgers join the fold), and the school took a big step today in announcing that it formed a committee to examine and recommend options about joining a conference:
Johns Hopkins University will formally explore conference affiliation for its men's lacrosse program, President Ronald J. Daniels announced in an email to members of the university community this morning.
Though JHU has competed as an independent with no conference or league affiliation for the entire 130-year history of its men's lacrosse program, the changing landscape of the sport has prompted the university to consider its options, Daniels said.
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Daniels said that Johns Hopkins had not received any formal invitations to join a conference, but have been approached by more than one seeking to gauge JHU's interest in becoming an associate member. He announced that he was forming a special committee to look into conference affiliation options. The committee will submit its findings and recommendations by May 15.
"We have made no commitments," he wrote. "We have made no decisions. We have concluded only that it is time to consider this question in the Johns Hopkins way: with care, deliberation and transparency."
I still can't believe that Hopkins is seriously considering this -- the Jays don't do easy, and affiliating with a league is the easy way out -- but I can understand where Hopkins is coming from. It's just . . . weird, you know?
For more on these two items, make sure to get yourself updated with the appropriate StoryStream: