Eastern promise?

The Baltimore Sun

For years, there has been talk about a men's lacrosse Big East Conference, and it might finally come to fruition in a couple of months. League play could begin as early as 2010.

According to several coaches, conference officials are expected to vote on forming the league in May. The seven teams are expected to be Notre Dame, Syracuse, Georgetown, Rutgers, St. John's, Villanova and Providence.

"I think it's going to happen," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "As a matter of fact, it's not a matter of if it is going to happen, but when."

Apparently, the holdup centers on whether Villanova and Providence can come up with the money for enough scholarships and assistant coaches to meet NCAA Division I requirements.

Previously, Syracuse was rumored to be one of the teams holding out because, as an independent, the Orange didn't want to give up an attractive schedule that included such teams as Johns Hopkins, Towson and Loyola.

But Syracuse appears to be on board now.

"When we first had preliminary talks, I talked with our athletic director about the strength of schedule, RPI rating and having some flexibility in who we scheduled," Orange coach John Desko said. "We don't want to give up the Blue Jays, Tigers or Loyola.

"We had local rivalries with Albany, Cornell, and 45 minutes down the road, we have Colgate and Hobart on the schedule," Desko said. "I don't know where we're at with it, but I do hear it's moving along."

Notre Dame is one of the driving forces behind the creation of Big East lacrosse, and it's easy to understand why. The Fighting Irish are members of the Great Western Conference, which includes Ohio State, Denver, Air Force, Bellarmine and Quinnipiac.

Who? Notre Dame has had problems scheduling the big-name schools from the South and East. To get to South Bend, Ind., or for the Fighting Irish to travel east requires a team flight and can eat up a large portion of a budget. Remember, this is college lacrosse, not major college football.

Plus, playing at Notre Dame is tough. Opposing teams go in mesmerized by the aura of the university and "Touchdown Jesus."

"I guess you could say that," Corrigan said when asked whether Notre Dame was out front in trying to form the Big East. "But this is not just good for Notre Dame, but lacrosse, as well.

"There is value in being a BCS-quality-conference-playing sport. There are no other major conferences playing this sport. We have the ACC, but they only have four teams."

According to Corrigan, if you look at the rosters of the seven schools that would make up Big East lacrosse, 75 percent to 80 percent of the players are from the areas where the schools are located.

He also said the league would get an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Division I tournament, but three to five teams might make the tournament because of the caliber of play.

"If you look at the season we had last year, it was an off year, but if we were in the Big East, we still might have had a shot at the tournament," Desko said of Syracuse.

Corrigan said: "We have some powerful reasons why we don't need to be locked out of the room, so to speak, out of our own conference, when it comes to lacrosse."

Georgetown, St. John's and Rutgers currently compete in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Villanova is in the Colonial League and Providence in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

If the eight-member ECAC loses three teams, it would have to pick up one (six is the minimum) or lose its automatic qualifier, according to Loyola coach Charley Toomey. The Greyhounds are also a member of the ECAC.

"We would like to continue to play Georgetown; that's a nice game for us, and hopefully for them, as well," Toomey said. "I think we have a good league, and even if those teams left, I don't think it would be disbanded. We're aware of what's going on with the forming of another possible league, but I think we'll be able to get through it."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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