By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun
8:59 PM EDT, September 13, 2012
The ties between Maryland and Notre Dame in men's lacrosse already run deep. Both Dick and George Corrigan, uncles of Fighting Irish coach Kevin Corrigan, were All-American attackmen for the Terps. On the flip side, Maryland coach John Tillman once interviewed for a job at South Bend.
The word Wednesday that Notre Dame will join the Atlantic Coast Conference, in all sports but football and ice hockey, takes things even further.
Five times, the schools have met in lacrosse. Maryland won four in a row, including a 7-3 victory in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament that sent the previously unbeaten Irish (15-0) packing.
A year later, Notre Dame settled up, upsetting the No. 3 Terps, 7-5, in a game that still gnaws at people in College Park.
"Both of those games were great victories for the teams that won, and heartwrenching losses for those that didn't," Kevin Corrigan said Thursday.
Such classics spurred Notre Dame's move to the ACC, he said.
"Our goal is to win [our first] national championship," said Corrigan, who has taken the Irish to 17 NCAA tournament appearances in 24 years. "You don't get there by hanging around the outer edges of this game. You do it by playing the best schools."
Notre Dame's jump from the Big East Conference to the ACC, probably in 2014 — coupled with the move of Syracuse next summer — makes the six-team loop a superpower in lacrosse, pundits said.
"The game now becomes more prominent in what was already a marquee conference," said Mark Dixon, a lacrosse analyst for ESPN who played at Johns Hopkins. "You're talking about teams that are, perennially, among the top six in the country."
Never mind that Notre Dame joins the ACC from halfway across the country.
"Nobody cares what the conference's name is anymore; they only care who's in it," said John Jiloty, editor of Inside Lacrosse magazine. "Notre Dame is already the biggest brand name in sports, but this clearly helps them in recruiting. They'll have games in front of high school kids in Maryland, Virginia and Syracuse. How could it not help?"
Corrigan downplayed such perks, saying, "We've been recruiting against these same schools for the last few years, anyway."
Truth be told, the Irish now list 12 Marylanders on their roster. The Terps have 16.
Not that the Terps are nervous.
"We'll just do what we have to do to get our players," Tillman said.
Notre Dame's arrival should boost recruiting for all ACC teams, said Steve Panarelli, lacrosse analyst for CBS Sports Network.
"All six of those coaches can go into kids' living rooms and say, 'Every year, you'll play in the best astmospheres and the best stadiums against Duke, Virginia, Maryland, Syracuse, North Carolina and Notre Dame,' " Panarelli said.
"It's like the Southeastern Conference in football. It's kind of scary."
Look for current ACC teams to tinker with their scheduling of nonleague games, he said. Having to play the likes of Notre Dame and Syracuse year in and year out requires a few breathers on the menu.
"Maybe they'll drop the Towsons and Loyolas from their schedules and pick up a Providence or a Binghamton," Panarelli said.
Maryland's Tillman takes a wait-and-see approach. Yes, he said, the Irish have a traditional swagger, golden domes on their helmets and traditions like being led onto the field before games by bagpipers.
"If I say I'm excited about Notre Dame's coming, it could mislead you into thinking we're going to beat them," Tillman said. "If I say I'm not excited, you might think we're scared. It's neither. They're just another good team that we'll have the opportunity to play.
"I just hope those bagpipes can play Maryland's alma mater."
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