In light of Johns Hopkins president Ronald J. Daniels accepting the recommendation of a seven-member special committee to explore joining a conference, university athletic director Tom Calder and men’s lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala participated in a conference call Friday afternoon.
Here are a few highlighted quotes from the conference call.
Athletic director Tom Calder on the timetable for researching potential conference: “There really isn’t any timeline. We’ve got to put a lot of time into this and make sure that if we are going to go into a conference, we do all of our homework and that we do what’s best not only for the athletes and the team but the university also.”
Coach Dave Pietramala on the timetable: “From our perspective, this is an exciting opportunity and the decision to seek conference affiliation is a monumental decision, which means the next decision is as equally as big because you want to continue to move into a positive direction, and you want to find the right place. From our perspective, we’ll now continue to do our homework, learn about the different conferences that have expressed interest in Johns Hopkins and there are several. We’ll try to figure out what is the best fit for our lacrosse program, but as well, what is the best fit for us institutionally? And then [we will] make a recommendation to our president and I’m certain that once he has that recommendation, there will be some more homework he would like to do and research he’d like to do and then eventually the decision will be made.”
Pietramala on the response from alumni about the program surrendering its independent status: “I think one of the first things our president communicated was that if we were going to look into this – which we felt like was the responsible thing to do – we were going to do so with great transparency, and it has been a very transparent process for us. And what I mean by that and why I say that is we afforded our alumni, our student body, pretty much anyone interested the opportunity to go to a link and basically share their thoughts. I had an opportunity to read every single one of the responses – as did all the committee members and as did President Daniels. We’ve obviously had a very diverse committee handle all the aspects of not only just Hopkins lacrosse but the athletic department and the university at large. So our considerations were vast, and it wasn’t just what’s in the best interest of the lacrosse program. It was to include our alumni, to include our administration, to include some faculty, some students. So we didn’t seek this decision lightly. And when you say 130 years of tradition, make no mistake, that weighed heavily on all of us. So this was a decision to seek conference affiliation that was not taken lightly. It took us quite a bit of time to decide what was in the best interest. Like any decision, I don’t know if you’re going to make everybody happy. But after doing an awful lot of research and communicating with different people and getting feedback and weighing all the pros and cons and with tradition and history being a very big part of that, we felt like at this time, in the state that athletics is in and the state that lacrosse is in, this was the best decision to secure the future of Hopkins lacrosse and to put this program in a place where we can continue what we’ve done for 130 years, which is compete for the national championship.”
Calder on why the university decided to explore joining a conference now: “We said we need to study this. The important thing for us is to win a national championship and how do you do that? You get into the NCAAs, and what’s the best way to get in? Well, give yourself two options. You can play an extremely strong schedule, but at the same time, there’s another advantage to being in a conference championship. So we wanted a second chance to get into the NCAAs.”
Pietramala on potential conferences for Johns Hopkins: “It’s been a couple of different ones, and until we’re able to gather the information that’s necessary to make an educated reference or recommendation to the president, I think it would just be safe to say that we’ve been approached by a few. I just think that until we can do our homework and really solidify in our own minds what might be the best avenue and what might be the best home for us, I just think it would be best to keep it at that.”
Calder on potential conferences: “We have not received a formal invitation to any conference yet. We have had some discussions with some people, but it’s just in the beginning stages.”
Pietramala on what he is looking for in a conference: “I think there are a number of things you want to look at. No. 1, you have to look at it from a university perspective in what’s best for Johns Hopkins. So we want to look academically. What is the right fit for us academically? We want to look competitively. We want to decide where we are going to get our best opportunity to be competitive on a national level. We want to look at scheduling opportunities, we want to look at locations. There is a host of things that I think we need to look at to make an educated and appropriate decision, and obviously we haven’t done all of that just yet. There are a number of conferences out there that offer a lot of these things. We just have to figure out which one is best. Additionally, we have to figure out which ones want us. That plays in a role in this as well. This isn’t just going to be a one-way street where we just say, ‘OK, we want this conference. We’re in.’ We’ve got to figure out which one feels good about us as well in the things that Johns Hopkins University and lacrosse bring to the table and then be invited in and then make a good decision.”
Pietramala on if there are certain rivalries to keep: “Navy is a longstanding rivalry. And Syracuse and Virginia and Maryland and Princeton and Carolina. Those are all games that are not only good and important to johns Hopkins, but those are good and important to the sport of lacrosse. National championships have been decided in some of those games. Some of the greatest games played have been played by those teams and some of the greatest players. So to be very frank with you, I don’t think I’d be forthright if I didn’t say that there are specific schools that we have interest in. That being said, I don’t want to forget our local rivalries. There’s a lot to consider here. Where some teams have one or two rivals, when you look at Johns Hopkins, one of the unique things about is we have several. And if you go through the different eras, you might get a different answer from the guys in the 70s and 80s as to who their rivals was and then the late 80s and 90s and then the 90s and 2000s. All of that is an important consideration, and I think there is a group of schools that we feel like it’s important that we do all we can to maintain those rivalries.”
Calder on maintaining certain rivalries: “It’s going to be hard to keep some of these people on our schedule. We really want to, but there could be things that – as things develop – are out of our control between playing in a different conference, championships at a certain point. That will all play out later, and we want to do everything we can to continue to play those schools that Dave mentioned earlier.”
Pietramala on if the program could remain independent: “There certainly is a chance that after you review everything, you just don’t find the right home. The nice thing is that we can remain independent. This announcement, the sole purpose of it is to state that we are seeking conference alignment. Another part of that is you’ve got to have that extended to you. So that needs to take place as well. But the decision right now has been that we think it’s in our best interest to seek conference alignment. Obviously, if we can find the one that best suits Johns Hopkins University and its lacrosse program, then that’s certainly the direction we would do our best to move in. and if we don’t find the right conference with the right ingredients, then there is always the option to remain independent.”
Pietramala on whether a potential conference accepting the university’s contractual relationship with ESPNU is non-negotiable: “It certainly is. Our partnerships are very important to us – whether they be our sponsors that are team specific as well as TV. Lacrosse has changed, and your brand is important and ours certainly is. Becoming a national brand in large part due to our success and due to our partnership with ESPN and specifically ESPNU, that is an important consideration here. We value the opportunity to be in homes not only nationally but in Canada as well. So that will be an important part of this decision in moving forward.”
Pietramala on if there is a target date to begin conference play: “We’d obviously like to make the decisions to what conference as soon as we can. Then obviously, there are scheduling issues. Honestly, I would hope that somewhere near 2015, we might be able to enter an actual conference or have that conference affiliation and adjust our schedule. To think that we can turn around right now and move quickly with other schools that are counting on us with our schedule for the most part being in place already. We try to have contractual agreements with schools for a couple years. While we have to be somewhat selfish here and take of Johns Hopkins, I think we also to a point have to be considerate of our peers and our counterparts.”
Calder on if the women’s team might join the same conference that the men’s team would join if an invitation was extended: “It is something we would consider. Obviously, it’s a turn in the road from the approach we were making with the women leaving their conference and taking a few years to see how things were playing in the women’s world and all the changes that they’re having take place. But it is something that could be part of the agreement if we get that far. I think right now, we’re concentrating on the men and if there’s a deal for the women, fine. But we’re not ready to really go into looking for a conference for the women. We still have one year left in the current conference we’re in.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun