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Penn State Ineligible for the 2014 CAA Tournament, Automatic Qualifier

The Nittany Lions have one path to The Big Barbecue: An increasingly difficult at-large route.

Justin K. Aller

THUNDERDOME! is a tough place. That's why it's THUNDERDOME! If THUNDERDOME! was easy, it'd be HANDSHAKETOWN!, where teams would compete in epic pillow fight battles and congratulate each other at the end when some team's mom would then make pizza rolls for everyone. THUNDERDOME! is just a mean, nasty place with flesh wounds from nail gun attacks and a voluminous eye patches and small explosions that appear seemingly out of nowhere for no apparent reason. THUNDERDOME!, at its core, is unyielding and an inherently zero-sum pursuit, which is why the league's decision today to ban Penn State from competing in the 2014 THUNDERDOME! Tournament is both harsh and par for the course in the nation's most violent universe.

Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse has all the details:

A Penn State spokesmen confirmed that CAA athletic directors have voted to bar Penn State from participating in the league championship for the 2014 season, their last as a conference member before joining the Big Ten in men's lacrosse for the 2015 season. Sources said that the vote came at the suggestion of the league's men's lacrosse coaches.

The move effectively eliminates the Nittany Lions from AQ contention in 2014, leaving their only path to the NCAA Tournament as at-large qualification.

“While we are not in favor of the decision by the CAA administrators, we understand they had the right to do so according to the CAA by-laws,” Penn State men's lacrosse SID Jeremy Fallis wrote in an email to Inside Lacrosse on Thursday. “It’s disappointing that our seniors won’t have the opportunity to compete for the CAA Tournament title and its automatic NCAA bid. Nevertheless, we’re incredibly excited to get back to work this fall as we try to earn a second-straight NCAA at-large bid this upcoming spring.”

THUNDERDOME! smash! [explosion] [the Nittany Lions reel back due to the concussion from the blast] [Drexel smiles and slowly beings to stalk Penn State] (In case you forgot, Penn State will depart THUNDERDOME! -- limbs potentially attached -- after the 2014 season to start the Big Ten's men's lacrosse concern with Michigan, Ohio State, Maryland, Rutgers, and Johns Hopkins.)

Just for reference, the Big East didn't exclude Syracuse and Notre Dame last year from that league's postseason despite the fact that both schools made it known that they'd be departing the conference for the ACC in the following season. In fact, all the Big East did was strip the Orange of the right to host the league's postseason tournament, moving the playoffs to Villanova (where the championship was held in 2012). It's interesting that THUNDERDOME! went the full-exclusion route instead of adopting the Big East's method of "punishment" (denying the departing member the chance to host the league tournament).

As for the Nittany Lions, this is a difficult development to accept. Penn State has the potential to be very strong in 2014, but without an automatic qualification opportunity available, Penn State's margin of error is slim. Depending on how the NCAA approaches field construction for the 2014 tournament (most importantly, the size of the field), the Lions could be in a position where razor-thin differences between teams could decide their fate (something that Penn State desperately seeks to avoid given their prior experience with at-large considerations). It's not just that Penn State can't play in the THUNDERDOME! Tournament; it's that the life of an NCAA Tournament at-large invitee is one of perilous struggle (which isn't unlike THUNDERDOME! itself).