The Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team, which has competed as an independent for its entire 130-year history, will join the Big Ten Conference as an affiliate member, university President Ronald J. Daniels announced today.
The announcement comes on the same day that the Big Ten announced the addition of men's lacrosse as a championship sport, with league play expected to begin with the 2015 season. Johns Hopkins will join current Big Ten schools Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan, plus long-time rival Maryland and Rutgers—both of which will become full Big Ten members in July 2014—in the new league.
A formal announcement was made in a news conference at the Cordish Lacrosse Center this morning. Video of the complete news conference can be viewed online.
"This decision may represent the single greatest change in Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse in more than a century," Daniels said in an email message announcing the move. "I am grateful for the thoughtful process that has led us to this historic place, and I am confident in the success of our shared endeavor in the years to come. "
In April, Daniels announced that a special committee would convene to examine the program's options in light of the changing landscape of the sport—explosive growth, the difficulty of scheduling games with traditional rivals bound by conference relationships, and an increase in the number of leagues receiving an automatic bid to the 16-team NCAA tournament. The Blue Jays went 9-5 during the 2013 season and were left out of the NCAA tournament field for the first time since 1972, ending a streak of 41 consecutive postseason appearances.
The committee, made up of alumni, former JHU lacrosse players, and university leaders and stakeholders, worked closely with JHU Athletic Director Tom Calder and men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala and ultimately recommended that Johns Hopkins seek affiliate membership in a conference.
Daniels said the Big Ten was a good fit for a number of reasons, including the opportunity to be a part of a new league as it launches, the ability to maintain traditional rivalries with Maryland and other schools, and the fact that the league's other members are research universities like Johns Hopkins.
"This is a very exciting day for Johns Hopkins University and the men's lacrosse program," Pietramala said. "This move allows us to maintain the greatest rivalry in college lacrosse with the University of Maryland, add several nationally recognized programs to our schedule, and maintain a number of national and local rivalries we have in place. All of those things were important considerations, and I am thankful to our administration for the time and effort they have put into this process and the unwavering support we have received in making this decision."
Johns Hopkins has agreed to a five-year initial membership with the Big Ten, Daniels said. The JHU women's lacrosse team will compete in Division I as an independent when it leaves the American Lacrosse Conference after the 2014 season, and all other teams will continue to compete at the Division III level.
There were 63 Division I men's lacrosse programs that competed during the 2013 season, four of which competed as independents—Johns Hopkins, High Point, Marquette, and Mercer. The remaining 59 teams were part of one of nine conferences, with the league champion of eight of those leagues receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Johns Hopkins first fielded a men's lacrosse team in 1883, seven years after the founding of the university. The Blue Jays have won 44 national titles, including nine since men's lacrosse became a sanctioned NCAA sport.