Monday’s announcement that Johns Hopkins would join the Big Ten in 2015 can be viewed as a new beginning for the program. It also signals an end to its traditional status as an independent.
Next season will be the Blue Jays’ 131st and final campaign as an independent. During that time, they captured 44 national championships and nine NCAA titles and appeared in 41 of 43 NCAA tournaments.
The program’s run of success as an independent was not taken lightly by coach Dave Pietramala.
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“I’m a traditionalist and this happened on my watch,” he said after Monday morning’s news conference at the university’s Cordish Lacrosse Center in Baltimore. “Make no mistake, that’s a lot of sleepless nights. I’m not responsible because this was a decision made by a lot of people, but I participated in that decision. So when you lay in bed and think, ‘Wow, we’re kind of altering our path,’ yeah, this is such an important entity here. It’s a part of the fabric of our community and Maryland. So we thought long and hard about it. I’m sure there will be moments where you think back and say ‘Remember when?’ But I’m excited when you think about the rivalries we’ll be able to keep and you start to compete against traditional athletic programs that are so well respected in Michigan and Ohio State. That’s kind of exciting to think about us maybe having a game in the Big House or in the Horseshoe. Those are great opportunities for our kids.”
There was something about Johns Hopkins securing a berth in every NCAA tournament as opponents everywhere became members in conferences. Unlike their peers, the Blue Jays did not need two paths to the NCAA tournament because they were always skilled and talented enough to seize an at-large bid on their own.
But with half of the 16-team field in the NCAA tournament dedicated to conferences with automatic qualifiers, the pool for at-large spots became shallower and shallower. Continuing to willfully ignore the power of an automatic qualifier while trying to elbow opponents for at-large berths was a strategic plan that was growing increasingly outdated.
“I think you always think that way when you make a change from the way it’s been,” athletic director Tom Calder said. “But the game has evolved so much that after the advice from the committee, we thought it was the best move for the institution at this time.”
Johns Hopkins became the last Division I program to surrender its independent status. High Point and Mercer had already committed to playing in the Atlantic Sun next season, while Marquette will play in the Big East next year.
Senior-to-be midfielder Rob Guida is scheduled to exhaust his final year of eligibility before the team joins the Big Ten, but he also noted the loss of the program’s independent status.
“There’s a certain pride you take from being independent for 130 years, the kind of history and tradition that has been built up for that long,” he said. “The biggest thing was the fact that [Big Ten] commissioner [Jim Delany] and President [Ronald J.] Daniels and Coach Pietramala talked about, the support that the alumni have given, and I think that’s a huge part of moving this decision forward. It will be different thinking of yourself as part of a conference, but I think it’s a great thing. It’s a monumental decision for our program.”