- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Big East announced Wednesday it would begin sponsoring a seven-school men’s lacrosse league in 2010, a decision likely to create greater visibility for a sport previously sponsored by only one BCS conference.

Georgetown and fellow ECAC members Rutgers and St. John’s will be part of the league, as will national champion Syracuse and 2008 NCAA quarterfinalist Notre Dame. Providence and Villanova also will be members.

The conference will apply for an automatic NCAA tournament berth; six is the minimum number of schools needed to be eligible for a guaranteed spot in the 16-team postseason.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about this, and there were good reasons to move in that direction,” Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. “I think everybody’s on the same page. I think it’s a really good thing for the sport.”

Coaches have bandied about the concept of Big East lacrosse for much of the decade, though it took time for the idea to take root. Syracuse, a longtime independent with several established rivalries at the local (Cornell, Hobart) and national (Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Virginia) levels it did not wish to lose, was considered a possible stumbling block.

So too were competitive questions. While Syracuse and Georgetown are the league’s biggest names, both Notre Dame and Rutgers have reached multiple NCAA tournaments this decade and St. John’s has a full complement of 12.6 scholarships. Neither Providence nor Villanova is fully funded, but that may change.

The Big East joins the ACC, which fields a four-team lacrosse league, as the only BCS conferences to sponsor the sport. Urick said he did not believe the Big East immediately would offer a league tournament at the end of each season.

One immediate implication for Georgetown is a revamped schedule. The Hoyas must add Notre Dame, Providence and Villanova in two years and no longer will be required to play conference games against Fairfield, Hobart, Loyola, Massachusetts and Penn State.

“It’s a little premature that we’re going to lose all those teams,” said Urick, who added he would like to continue the Loyola series and that the Hoyas will meet Harvard as a midweek opponent next season. “We may lose some of them. We have to add three teams, but there’s some room to keep some of those teams.”

The longer-term effects could be far greater. No school with a major college football program has added men’s lacrosse since 1981, and optimists in the sport hope the addition of a power conference indirectly could lead more schools to consider the game.

The Big East’s name recognition - with an assist from 10-time NCAA champion Syracuse - figures to dovetail with a growing presence on television and annual record-breaking crowds at the final four.

“I think it’s already one of the best conferences,” Providence coach Chris Burdick said. “In four years, it’ll be that much better. I think it’s the first major domino to fall of many in the next 10 years that’s really going to bring college lacrosse into its own.”

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