Now that Johns Hopkins has opened the door for conferences to woo the illustrious program, the most pressing question centers on if there is one league that best suits the Blue Jays – and vice versa.
If coach Dave Pietramala and athletic director Tom Calder are steadfast in retaining traditional rivalries, the Atlantic Coast Conference would appear to be the best fit. Joining that league would allow Johns Hopkins to maintain traditional series with North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia, and the team would simply have to carve out space for Duke and Notre Dame. Those five opponents would be more than enough to enhance the Blue Jays’ strength of schedule, too.
The Big East would be a league that might make sense geographically and competitively. Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s and Villanova are on the East Coast with Marquette requiring a flight, and Johns Hopkins’ strength would make it a preseason favorite for the conference title on an annual basis.
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A potential Big Ten would offer players and recruits to play on historic fields like Michigan Stadium, Ohio Stadium (Ohio State), and Byrd Stadium (Maryland). Plus, the Blue Jays could continue their rivalry with the Terps.
The problem with joining a conference is that games involving league opponents would crowd out contests entailing non-conference opponents that have been mainstays on Johns Hopkins’ schedule. So local rivalries like Loyola, Navy, Towson and UMBC could be on the outside looking in.
While acknowledging that there are several series he would like to protect, Pietramala said he does not want to cede traditions with other programs.
“I don’t want to forget our local rivalries,” he said. “There’s a lot to consider here. Where some teams have one or two rivals, when you look at Johns Hopkins, one of the unique things about us is, we have several. And if you go through the different eras, you might get a different answer from the guys in the 70s and 80s as to who their rivals was and then the late 80s and 90s and then the 90s and 2000s. All of that is an important consideration, and I think there is a group of schools that we feel like it’s important that we do all we can to maintain those rivalries.”
The underlying element in this decision is that if the Blue Jays and a conference can agree to join forces, the league will get a top-tier member in the sport of lacrosse and Johns Hopkins will get another avenue by which to qualify for the NCAA tournament. That additional option was not lost on Calder.
“The important thing for us is to win a national championship and how do you do that?” he asked rhetorically. “You get into the NCAAs, and what’s the best way to get in? Well, give yourself two options. You can play an extremely strong schedule, but at the same time, there’s another advantage to being in a conference championship. So we wanted a second chance to get into the NCAAs.”