A host of details are still being decided surrounding Notre Dame's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. There are also a host of ways to look at this news and what it means for lacrosse. Here are some pros and cons that jump out upon first glance:
Pro — ACC men's lacrosse gets an AQ
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Non-ACC fans have always looked down on the ACC tournament as something of a sham because the conference had only four men's lacrosse schools. But with six, it becomes a legitimate league, and one that will carry an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament. Becoming a more official and regular part of one of the NCAA's top conferences can only benefit men's lacrosse.
Con — The rich get richer
I'm not sure whether another sport has such a power conference as what the ACC in men's lacrosse will look like once Notre Dame joins. The last time all six of the future ACC teams didn't make the NCAA tournament was 2007, when everyone but Syracuse made the postseason.
It's going to be tough for any non-ACC school to have a top-five strength of schedule. It's also going to be tough for all six ACC schools to stay above .500.
Pro — More potential for ACC schools to go D-I
With the NCAA tournament AQ, six top-10 opponents built into each team's schedule and plenty of time to get ready for Notre Dame's arrival (earliest would be for the 2016 season, though those details are far from worked out), now would seemingly be a great time for ACC schools that don't support Division I men's lacrosse to look at going varsity. Pittsburgh and Boston College are the two most natural geographically; the Eagles were D-I until 2002 and sponsor women's lacrosse. Virginia Tech sponsors varsity women's lacrosse, and Miami flirted with sponsoring varsity women's lacrosse. North Carolina State sponsored varsity men's lacrosse until 1982. Florida State has long been rumored to be the next in line to go varsity, though those rumors have subsided in the past five years.
Con — Big East takes another hit
While we can speculate about which ACC schools might add men's lacrosse, Marquette stepped up and did it; the Golden Eagles begin play this spring. A big part of that move was the Big East's men's lacrosse presence — an automatic game against Syracuse and a geographic rival in Notre Dame. Both of those carrots will soon be gone, removing the Big East of its top two men's lacrosse programs. Depending on how schedules shake out, that could be a big blow to the Big East's remaining teams (Marquette, Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Rutgers and Providence), though at least they remain above the NCAA's six-school AQ threshold.
Pro — Lacrosse makes inroads in Midwest, Southeast
This is big mostly for Notre Dame's men's lacrosse program. This keeps their Syracuse game intact (which has sold out Arlotta Stadium) and adds high-level games every year with Maryland, Virginia, Duke and Notre Carolina. Those are some big-time programs showcasing the game in the Midwest, significantly raising the quality of the Irish's schedule. And with Syracuse and Notre Dame now visiting Duke, North Carolina and Virginia every other year, this can only help the awareness and excitement around the game in the Southeast. The ACC is still primarily a Southeastern conference, so adding another high-profile school to the mix and bumping up the importance of men's lacrosse, whether or not it's at the varsity level in places like Florida State and Clemson and Wake Forest, still is good for the sport.
Con — More logistical headaches for scheduling
ACC coaches are already scrambling to figure out their schedules for when Syracuse joins the ACC in 2014, especially in terms of how to handle the tournament. Trips between Syracuse and North Carolina aren't easy or cheap, but everyone is affected when factoring in travel to Indiana. And adding another game is going to make everyone's schedules that much more difficult. I wouldn't be surprised to see the ACC stay at a four-team tournament now that there will be a sixth member; the conference would likely have to go with the top seed as the host since the risk of picking a site ahead of time that didn't make the event could be too high.
Pro — Possible NCAA tournament expansion
A sixth team in the ACC will give the NCAA men's tournament nine automatic qualifiers, once the conference plays with six teams for three years. Though timing hasn't been worked out for Notre Dame's departure from the Big East, reports are saying the 2016 spring would likely be the earliest that could take place. That puts a men's lacrosse AQ at the 2019 season. (The Northeast Conference gains its AQ in 2013, which puts the AQ slate at the America East, Big East, Colonial Athletic Association, Eastern College Athletic Conference, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Patriot League starting this spring.)
The NCAA has said it doesn't want more than half of its postseason berths to go to AQs, so this could mean it would have to expand the men's lacrosse tournament beyond 16 teams.
By 2015, when Monmouth, Furman and Boston University are all varsity, Division I likely will have 66 teams sponsoring men's lacrosse. That's up from 57 in 2007 — a growth of 16 percent in eight years.
NCAA women's lacrosse recently went from 16 to 26 teams for its 2013 tournament after going to 13 AQs.
Con — NCAA tournament bottleneck
Problem is, even at 66 D-I men's teams that means 24 percent are making a 16-team postseason, which is in line with sports such as men's ice hockey (16/58, 28 percent) and men's soccer (48/202, 24 percent). With 100 teams sponsoring D-I women's lacrosse next year, 26 percent will make the postseason, which is among the highest for similar women's sports.
If expansion of the tournament isn't feasible, that could mean a play-in game so the field isn't more than half AQs. If that happens, that's a tough blow to conferences that have worked toward getting an automatic bid and the benefits that come with that guaranteed road to the postseason.