Saturday’s matchup between Georgetown (8-3, 3-1 ECAC) and Rutgers (5-6, 3-2) features two ECAC rivals in a contest that has NCAA tournament ramifications. In a few years, these two teams will likely still be conference rivals, but that conference could be the Big East. Officials are expected to vote next month, and if all goes according to script, a Big East lacrosse conference, which was once only a dream for the lacrosse world, could soon become a reality with play starting as early as 2010.

“It’s something that’s been discussed for a long time between the coaches like myself and the Notre Dame coach [Kevin Corrigan],” Georgetown Head Coach Dave Urick said. “We’re a lot closer to a Big East lacrosse league than ever before, but I don’t think it will happen right away necessarily.”

Georgetown – which will not earn the ECAC automatic qualifying bid this season – would benefit from playing in a more competitive Big East. While they are ranked fourth in both major lacrosse polls, the Hoyas are No. 13 in the RPI because their strength of schedule is brought down by weak conference opponents.

The Hoyas have beaten Duke, ranked second in the polls and the RPI, and Navy, ranked 11th in the RPI and 14th in the polls, but come May 4, when the selection committee deliberates, they may find themselves on the outside of the NCAA tournament looking in. The Hoyas’ losses are to eighth-ranked Maryland and a heartbreaker at top-ranked Syracuse, where they led with 10 seconds left in regulation before falling in double overtime. Their final loss was an 11-9 decision at 15th-ranked Loyola which gave the Greyhounds the ECAC title and automatic qualifier.

Georgetown’s out-of-conference schedule features five top-20 teams, but their ECAC opponents, who own a 19-27 combined out-of-conference record, have lowered the Hoyas strength of schedule and thereby have lowered their RPI.

A move to a respected Big East versus the often disdained ECAC should eliminate Georgetown’s scheduling problems. The Big East has historically featured some of the best teams in their respective sports ranging from the Pat White-led West Virginia Mountaineers football team to the Kerri Hanks-led Notre Dame women’s soccer team, with almost every other sport in between. The formation of the Big East would constitute a major milestone and create a major BCS-style conference with name recognition, and it is something Urick thinks would legitimize lacrosse as a mainstream collegiate sport.

“It’s definitely going to help the game of lacrosse because the Big East has name recognition,” he said. “Obviously, the Big East is known for its big-time college basketball and football, so it can only help the game in terms of exposure.”

One of the biggest holdups over the last several years has been Georgetown’s rival to the north, Syracuse. The Orange – perennial national title contenders who are currently ranked first in the nation – play as independent, which gives them the flexibility to schedule nearly any opponent they want.

This freedom has helped Syracuse have one of the toughest and most competitive schedules each year with opponents like Johns Hopkins and Virginia, but a poor season last year seems to have made Head Coach John Desko change his thinking. The Orange’s independent status meant they could not earn an automatic bid offered to conferences with six or more teams, but in a Big East conference, Syracuse could lose to quality non-conference opponents and still earn a bid to the NCAA tournament by winning the conference.

“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 told the Baltimore Sun. With Georgetown, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Syracuse, St. John’s and potentially Villanova and Providence as members of the conference, the Big East will enjoy the right to the coveted automatic qualifying berth in the NCAA tournament. Urick feels the bid is important for the league and feels that the game of lacrosse has benefited from its use.

“We’re going to have to make some scheduling arrangements because we’ll have to add Notre Dame and another school, depending on Villanova or Providence, so we’ll see,” Urick said.

Urick said he would like to keep teams like Loyola on his schedule and is interested to see if they are considered for Big East membership since their women’s lacrosse team is one of six members of the Big East women’s lacrosse conference. Loyola Head Coach Charley Toomey shared Urick’s sentiments about continuing the rivalry whether it is in conference or out.

“We would like to continue to play Georgetown; that’s a nice game for us,” Toomey told the Baltimore Sun.

The Hoyas’ concern right now, however, is not a potential Big East, but their ECAC contest with Rutgers, which may decide whether they earn an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. A loss might guarantee that their regular season finale on May 3 at Penn State is their last of the season, but a win would keep their hopes alive and put them at the mercy of the selection committee.

Urick’s message to his team was simple: “If you want to keep playing on [the Multi-Sport Field,] then you have to keep winning.”

Game time is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Yurcak Field in Piscataway, N. J.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.