Maryland lacrosse soon to find itself at a crossroads

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Maryland men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman, like so many of his colleagues, arrived in College Park to coach in the ACC. 

Unlike nearly all of them, there is no obvious home for his team as the school moves to the Big Ten.

“We’ve been so associated with the ACC, it’s going to seem different,” Tillman said. “We’re going to have to move beyond the emotional part and step back and say ‘What’s best for our program going forward?’”

Maryland fields teams in 20 sports, and the Big Ten sponsors 18 of them. The exceptions are men’s and women’s lacrosse, which likely will need to investigate their options once the school leaves the ACC after the 2013-14 school year.

It is possible the teams would play as independents or join another league as an associate member.

“We’re looking at several opportunities put on the table for both our men and women,” athletic director Kevin Anderson said. “They’re both positive, but we want to sit down and look at all the options before we commit.”

While those two teams face a bit of uncertainty, the move could be a lifeline for programs that appeared to have no future.

Maryland’s financial difficulties forced the school to drop seven sports earlier this year, but the influx of money from the Big Ten could lead to the return of some of them. Anderson said the school would reconvene its commission on intercollegiate athletics that recommended the program cuts.

“The director and I are absolutely committed to begin the process to reinstate some of the teams that we had to terminate,” said Wallace D. Loh, the university’s president. “We are also committed to strengthen further the support we give to our student-athletes, that they have the best possible experience because when we came here with the number of teams we had, the support was at the bottom of the ACC.”

Even if Maryland cannot bring back its cut programs — men’s cross country, indoor track, swimming and tennis and women’s acrobatics and tumbling, swimming and water polo — the move likely provides enough financial security to avoid eliminating more programs.

“For me, the most important thing today is that no future Maryland athletic director will have to look in young men’s and young women’s eyes and say you can’t compete anymore, that you can’t wear the colors for this school because we can’t afford to support your teams financially,” Anderson said.Ultimately, the influx of money is likely to provide better resources for athletes, from academic support to nutrition to sports medicine. It should also make it easier for Maryland to improve several facilities, including the aging Varsity Team House so many non-revenue teams share.

That includes men’s lacrosse, which is likely to benefit from the change even if its home after 2014 remains uncertain.

“Going to some of the other schools and seeing the resources they have, they’ve really upgraded some things and I think we’re really behind,” Tillman said. “I think what’s going to happen here is we’re going to be able to make some changes very positively so and upgrade our facilities.”

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