On the heels of Johns Hopkins’ announcement that the men’s lacrosse team would join the Big Ten for the 2015 season, ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich had a few thoughts on the move. Kessenich is a former All-American goalkeeper for the Blue Jays.
Do you have any concerns about the program’s move to the Big Ten?
I have two reservations – as you would with any kind of realignment. The first would be that I believe that teams – whatever the sport – when they change conference, they ultimately play themselves to the level of that conference. It’s kind of like a marriage. After 20 years of marriage, how often do the husband and wife look the same? That being said, you’re joining a league with teams like Michigan. We’re not sure how they’re going to look like in 10 or 15 years although all signs are positive. You’re joining a league with Rutgers. Rutgers hasn’t had any kind of success, has never been to championship weekend, and has had one quarterfinal appearance. I worry about putting yourself in a league with other teams who aren’t championship caliber and ultimately as a program, you become just like them. The second concern is the Big Ten. If Minnesota or Michigan State were to add men’s lacrosse, Johns Hopkins would be forced to add them to their schedule, bumping traditional rivals from their slate and [being] forced to jettison Syracuse, Princeton, North Carolina, Towson, Loyola, or UMBC. And that’s out of their control. So in a way, we all want the sport of lacrosse to grow across this country, but the move would backfire if Indiana, Minnesota or Michigan State were to add Division I men’s lacrosse at the varsity level. Johns Hopkins would be forced to play them, and that would signal the end of some longtime rivalries.
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What are the benefits of the move?
I see Hopkins going on a barnstorming tour for the next five years. I think they’re going to go out to the Midwest, and they’re going to play Ohio State after the Ohio State spring football game, and they’ll do the same thing at Penn State and Michigan. It’s a positive for the sport of lacrosse, and as long as the Blue Jays don’t have to drop their traditional rivals and the way you do it with a 14-game traditional schedule is, it looks likely they can keep all of them. My guess is that Army will get kicked off the docket. But the rest should remain. It would be a shame if Hopkins had to lose some of those rivals, and I don’t see that happening unless there are some additions.
Is the Big Ten the right fit for Johns Hopkins?
I think the wheels were in motion long before this disastrous 2013 season, and I think the failure to make the tournament this year only re-emphasized that without the AQ, Hopkins was out of lifelines a little earlier than most programs. So I believe they were thinking about the conference way before the season, but the way the season turned, this strongly re-emphasized the need for the automatic qualifier as a second lifeline.
Will Big Ten opponents generate much enthusiasm from fans?
Hopkins fans have shown an affinity for good-weather games in April and May at Homewood Field against long-time traditional rivals. If you look at the numbers, they have shown no interest in February and March night games against non-traditional powers. They’re very much traditionalists and purists of who they want to come watch, and I don’t think that Rutgers is particularly a strong draw. But I do think that when the Blue Jays go on the road, it’s now a worthwhile event, and I think they’ll be playing those Big Ten football schools many times on their spring football Saturdays, and that’s definitely a long-term positive.
With the Blue Jays scheduled to join the Big Ten for the 2015 season, can the 2014 campaign be considered a lame-duck season?
No. But it will be interesting to see how this impacts recruiting. If [coach] Dave [Pietramala] can assure everybody that he’s going to keep the Virginia, Syracuse, North Carolina and local rivalries together, that is a positive from a schedule standpoint. My 14-game schedule – if I were the Blue Jays and I were leading that program – would be the five Big Ten games, the three local rivals in Towson, Loyola and UMBC, Army and Navy, Syracuse and Princeton, and the two from the ACC. Now the question will be, you’ve got Army slated in that last weekend of the season, and that’s probably when the Big Ten tournament would be. So the one team out of that whole mix that would probably have to go would be Army. And I’d replace them with somebody local – someone like Mount St. Mary’s or someone within an hour’s drive.