Here's a big-time sign that lacrosse is arguably the fastest growing sport in the U.S. and quickly becoming one of its most popular.
The Big Ten Conference announced June 3 that men's and women's lacrosse will become the conference's 27th and 28th official sports and that Johns Hopkins University has been accepted as a sport affiliate member for men's lacrosse only beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.
"We are excited to announce the launch of Big Ten men's and women's lacrosse and the addition of Johns Hopkins as a sport affiliate member," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany in a press release. "Johns Hopkins is an outstanding institution with a legacy of success in men's lacrosse that is simply unmatched in intercollegiate athletics. Lacrosse is an emerging sport among our current schools and is a long-held passion among our East Coast institutions. With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers in all sports and Johns Hopkins for men's lacrosse, we will have the requisite number of institutions to make men's and women's lacrosse official conference sports, building upon our tradition of broad-based sports competition. We look forward to the start of the first Big Ten men's and women's lacrosse seasons in 2015."
Big Ten competition in both sports will feature Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers, with Johns Hopkins participating in men's lacrosse and Northwestern competing in women's lacrosse. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.
The six programs that will comprise Big Ten men's lacrosse boast 56 national championships, with schools that have competed for more than a century. Johns Hopkins has been an independent since 1883 and leads all schools with 44 national championships. Maryland has claimed 11 national titles, while Rutgers has also won a national championship. The Scarlet Knights launched men's lacrosse in 1887, followed by programs starting in 1913 for Penn State, 1924 for Maryland and 1953 for Ohio State. Michigan instituted a men's lacrosse program in 2012. Maryland, Ohio State and Penn State each qualified for the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship this season, with the Buckeyes advancing to the quarterfinals.
Big Ten women's lacrosse will feature teams that have won 23 national championships and 19 of the 32 NCAA championships, including eight of the last nine. Maryland has won 11 national championships, with 10 NCAA crowns, including seven straight from 1995 to 2001 and most recently in 2010. Northwestern has claimed seven NCAA titles, highlighted by five consecutive from 2005 to 2009 and most recently in 2012. Penn State has earned five national championships, including NCAA titles in 1987 and 1989. The Terrapins, Wildcats and Nittany Lions earned berths in the NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship this season. Penn State advanced to the quarterfinals, Northwestern reached the national semifinals and Maryland was edged in triple overtime in the national championship game.
With 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 and 13 for women, but is set to add men's ice hockey as the 26th conference sport in the fall. The last official women's conference sport established by the Big Ten was women's rowing in the 1999-2000 academic year.