Big Ten could soon include women's lacrosse
League would have Northwestern and Maryland, country's two leading programs
Shannon Smith (center) celebrates Northwestern's win over Maryland in the 2011 NCAA final. (Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke / Special to the Tribune / May 29, 2011)
The Terrapins soon may have no choice in the matter.
Although Big Ten communications director Scott Chipman said in an email that any new conference sports based on Monday's announcement of Maryland joining the conference are "still TBD," the addition of Maryland and likely new member Rutgers would provide the six teams the Big Ten requires to have a conference championship in a sport.
That should guarantee the sport’s two most successful programs, Northwestern (seven NCAA titles) and Maryland (10), meet every year.
They have played in two of the last three NCAA finals, with the Wildcats winning in 2011 and the Terrapins in 2010. Northwestern won 9-7 in last year's semfinals.
Three Big Ten schools – Northwestern, Ohio State and Penn State – already have women’s lacrosse and are members of the American Lacrosse Conference. Michigan is scheduled to join the ALC when it begins play in 2014.
Asked about Maryland's lacrosse future at Monday's press conference announcing the move to the Big Ten, the school's athletic director, Kevin Anderson, said cryptically, "We do have several plans we could put in place."
Anderson could have been referring only to the Maryland men's team, since a Big Ten with Maryland, Rutgers and the new Michigan team, plus Penn State and Ohio State, would be one team shy of what the Big Ten requires.
There are men's club teams at eight current Big Ten schools. Northwestern is the only one without a men's varsity or club.
Northwestern women's coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, who played on Maryland’s 1995 and 1996 NCAA champions, has been trying to get the Terps back on her schedule. They have met just twice in the regular season during Amonte Hiller’s 11 years at Northwestern, with the Wildcats winning both.
Their last regular-season meeting came one year after Amonte Hiller had turned down the Maryland job to stay in Evanston.
Five of the six coaches of teams that could form a Big Ten women's lacrosse conference - all but Rutgers - played at Maryland.
In a statement, Amonte Hiller welcomed her alma mater to the Big Ten but made no mention of the possibility of a lacrosse conference.
"During my college experience and throughout my coaching career, I have always appreciated (Maryland's) tradition of excellence and its passionate fan base, and know that it will be a great fit in the Big Ten landscape," Amonte Hiller's statement said.