The Big Ten continues the march to increase its presence on the East Coast by adding Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse as the conference’s first-ever affiliate member and the Pinstripe Bowl based at Yankee Stadium in New York City as a bowl tie-in. These moves aren’t necessarily earth-shattering in the way that the expansion with Maryland and Rutgers was back in November, but they show how Jim Delany and the Big Ten’s university presidents are aiming to make the league as much of an East Coast conference as it is a Midwestern conference.
As far as men’s lacrosse programs go, Johns Hopkins is considered to be the gold standard with more national championships than any other school and clung onto independence in the same way that Notre Dame continues to do so for football.* At the same time, the Big Ten has long had the stance that schools with either “all in” or “all out” (hence the hardline resistance to ever offer schools like Notre Dame any non-football membership). So, it was a bit of a surprise when news broke a few months ago that the Big Ten and JHU were exploring an affiliate relationship. Johns Hopkins then formed a Blue Ribbon Committee that ultimately recommended that the men’s lacrosse team should join a conference last month in a fascinating report. Among the requirements that JHU deemed to be important were an initial membership period of 5 years and that the school could maintain its current TV contract with ESPNU. A number of Big Ten observers thought that the latter TV rights item would be an obstacle on paper (since increasing the inventory of desirable non-football/basketball programming has been a primary goal of the Big Ten Network), but that was assuaged by the fact that Johns Hopkins would not receive any conference revenue (which would make any potential complications as to how an affiliate member would partake in the BTN money trough moot).