It’s been a whirlwind 48 hours or so for John Tillman.
Since word leaked Saturday of Maryland mulling an offer to leave the Atlantic Coast Conference and join the Big Ten, the men’s lacrosse coach has been on the phone and sitting in meeting rooms to collect all the information he can about the move. And as of now, Tillman said he’s come to the conclusion that it’s too early to speculate on the move’s impact on the men’s lacrosse program.
“I don’t know,” he said Tuesday morning. “We have two years. We’re playing this spring and then next spring. So we’re two years out. We just have to make sure that we assess what’s taking place and respond responsibly and accordingly to put Maryland lacrosse in the best position possible to be successful. In a world around us that continues to move and change, we’ve got to understand that as we go through this conference realignment, there’s going to be a lot of change, and there’s probably going to continue to be more change. We’ve got to be able to change with it.”
The biggest question looming on the horizon is where the Terps will land after leaving the ACC. Three other Big Ten schools in Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State field Division I men’s lacrosse programs, and if Rutgers also makes the leap from the Big East, that would bump the number of Big Ten lacrosse teams to five.
But that’s still one short of the required six-team conference to earn an automatic qualifier, and Tillman conceded that the absence of another team could discourage Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State from leaving the Eastern College Athletic Conference, their current home.
“What we may see in the next few years is maybe somebody else will jump [to the Big Ten] as well, and that may give us what we need,” Tillman said, adding that becoming an independent school like archrival John Hopkins is an option. “But until then, I’m not sure anybody would really move with only five teams. Now there’s the option of finding someone outside of the Big Ten and having them join the conference [just for lacrosse]. But it’s pretty early for us to give too much speculating. I think a lot of the paint is still drying on this, and I think we just have to let it settle a little bit before we speculate too, too much.”
As pointed out by ESPN analyst Mark Dixon in an article in Tuesday’s edition of The Sun, leaving the ACC could sap the Maryland of a powerful tool in recruiting blue-chip players to the school. Tillman said he and his staff spent much of Monday calling recruits who had committed to the Terps to re-affirm their commitment, and he said no one has reneged yet.
Tillman said he thinks Maryland, which has advanced to the national title game in each of the past two years, will still boast a schedule that will be attractive to the top prep players in the country.
“Playing in the ACC has been something that we’ve been a part of, and I know our kids enjoy those games,” he said. “But I think kids come to Maryland for a lot more than just being in a conference. Right now, that’s three games a year [against ACC teams], and we’d still have three games a year [against Big Ten opponents]. There’s a lot that goes into the decision of going to college, and I know that Maryland will continue to play one of the top schedules in the country. We’ll play against the best and challenge ourselves week in and week out. So that’s certainly not going to change.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun