Denver's move to Big East could force Johns Hopkins to look elsewhere

Denver's announcement Thursday that it will leave the Eastern College Athletic Conference and move to the Big East for immediate membership next season could impact Johns Hopkins' search for a conference that the program can call home.

The Big East was one of a few leagues that popped up as a potential landing area for a Blue Jays program that has won nine national championships, but was left out of the NCAA tournament this spring for the first time since 1971.


The Big East was an attractive suitor for Johns Hopkins because the conference needed a sixth team to join Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's and Villanova so that it could retain the automatic qualifier it had for the NCAA tournament. (Rutgers will also stay in the Big East for one year before joining a potential Big Ten conference.)

Only Marquette required a trip away from the East Coast, and the Big East was not likely to make a fuss about the Blue Jays' contract extension with ESPNU to broadcast the team's games.

The addition of the Pioneers does not exclude Johns Hopkins from being added by the Big East, but perhaps the league no longer feels that it has to kowtow to some of the university's criteria for affiliation, which includes an initial membership term of five years, an option to extend that membership after the first three years and a guarantee that the school's membership would not change despite movement within the conference.

The Blue Jays still have other options besides the Big East. The Atlantic Coast Conference needs a sixth member to join Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia after Maryland leaves after next season.

The Terps and Rutgers will join Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State for the 2015 season, and a potential Big Ten conference would need a sixth member to earn an automatic qualifier.

Denver's announcement confirmed a report by Inside Lacrosse about the program's move to the Big East.

"We thank the ECAC, for the opportunity to participate and represent them in the last four NCAA tournaments, for running a great conference tournament the last three years, and for their support," Pioneers coach Bill Tierney said in a written statement. "We are extremely excited to be joining Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Marquette and Providence in 2014, knowing what a great challenge they will present the young men on our team. We are thankful that the Big East offered us this opportunity and look forward to competing with class and honor for its championship for many years to come."

Denver's move leaves Air Force, Bellarmine, Fairfield and Hobart seeking leagues to join as well.

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