The Big Ten Conference announced Monday the adoption of men's and women's lacrosse as the conference's 27th and 28th official sports beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.
The Big Ten women's lacrosse conference will consist of seven-time NCAA champ Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan -- which will debut its varsity women's lacrosse program in the 2014 season -- and Big Ten newcomers Maryland and Rutgers. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.
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Big Ten commissioner James E. Delany and the conference also announced that Johns Hopkins University has been accepted as a sport affiliate member for men's lacrosse only beginning in 2014-15, the first such affiliation of its kind in the history of Big Ten athletics.
"This is an extremely exciting announcement for the entire lacrosse community," said Kelly Amonte Hiller, Northwestern head coach and five-time National Coach of the Year. "Gaining the support, stability, TV coverage and brand association of one of the most prestigious college conferences in the country is an enormous step forward for our sport."
With its inception, the Big Ten instantly becomes one of the most competitive conferences in Division I women's lacrosse, boasting teams that have won a combined 19 of 32 NCAA women's lacrosse championships and 23 championships overall. In addition to the seven championships won by the Wildcats under Amonte Hiller, Maryland brings with it to the Big Ten 11 national championships (10 NCAA) while Penn State claims five national titles, two under the current NCAA format.
Following the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014, the broad-based athletic programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will sponsor nearly 350 teams in 42 different sports with almost 9,500 student-athletes, more than any other conference. The Big Ten currently features 25 official conference sports (12 for men, 13 for women), but is set to add men's ice hockey as the 26th conference sport this fall. The last official women's conference sport established by the Big Ten was women's rowing in the 1999-2000 academic year.