This morning’s decision by the University of Maryland board of regents to approve a move to the Big Ten Conference has been hailed in some corners, but vilified in others for chasing television revenue even while cutting nine varsity sports.
But for the purposes of this site, this could have a seismic effect when it comes to both field hockey and women’s lacrosse.
A move for Maryland into the Big Ten will break up what was sizing up to be a field hockey superconference, one which was to start including Syracuse next year. Having Syracuse in the ACC means that Maryland head coach Missy Meharg would be coaching against her protege Ange Bradley and Syracuse once a year. How long that continues, however, depends on the timetable (yet to be determined) for Maryland’s conference move.
The move may also deprive field hockey fans of the best collegiate rivalry from the last three decades: Maryland vs. North Carolina. Especially in recent seasons, Maryland-UNC field hockey games were not just games, they were happenings. In alternating years, the stands were jammed in both College Park and Chapel Hill. Unless the schools schedule each other for non-conference games, that important rivalry will be no more.
In women’s lacrosse, Maryland’s move would also break up what was likely to become a women’s lacrosse superconference. As was the case in field hockey, having Syracuse in the ACC means that a Maryland-Syracuse match would be guaranteed every year, and having legend Gary Gait in the conference would mean that every other coach in the ACC would have to up their level of play.
So, what does having Maryland in the Big Ten mean for two of the best programs in women’s sports?
In the Big Ten, Maryland’s field hockey program is going to be the automatic favorite for league and postseason honors the moment the move is completed. However, the teams currently in the Big Ten, especially Penn State, are in good position to raise their levels of play for the day the Terps come calling.
In women’s lacrosse, there is an automatic benefit for women’s lacrosse fans. If the Maryland jump to the Big Ten goes though, there is guaranteed to be at least one Maryland vs. Northwestern women’s lacrosse game every year either under the umbrella of the American Lacrosse Conference or a Big Ten including a rumored move by Rutgers. And with conference and postseason, there could be three meetings per season between the Terps and Wildcats between the regular season, conference tournament play, and in the Division I tournament.
Clearly, the era of conference-jumping amongst colleges is being done in terms of chasing dollars. And it is particularly damning in Maryland’s situation because the school cut nine programs last year citing a revenue shortage.
And while much will be made of what kind of competition Maryland will find in football and men’s basketball, the unintended consequences for field hockey and women’s lacrosse are certainly a mixed blessing.