Adding an eighth conference member — the plan is for Marquette to play as an independent in 2013 and become lacrosse conference member in 2014 — will likely drag down Syracuse’s strength of schedule and RPI numbers when it comes to selecting and seeding teams in the NCAA Tournament.
Marquette, located in Milwaukee, is a member of the Big East, a conference that began men’s play in lacrosse last season with SU, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s and Villanova.“It is good for lacrosse,” Desko said. “Is it good for Syracuse University and our schedule? It remains to be seen when they put a team together.”
Desko has been diplomatic in addressing questions related to the Big East ever since the Orange gave its stamp of approval on the formation of the league. For years the school resisted overtures to create it, choosing to remain with Johns Hopkins as the game’s two great independent heavyweights, similar to Notre Dame in football. A 5-8 record and exclusion from the NCAA Tournament in 2007 — SU’s first losing mark in 25 years — went a long way toward the school’s agreement to help the Big East become the only BCS football conference to offer men’s lacrosse (the ACC is not recognized by the NCAA as a conference when it comes Tournament time because it has only four members).
At the time Desko was aware that conference members such as Providence, St. John’s and Villanova could put a drag on his team’s SOS and RPI until they caught up to the other members in funding for coaches and scholarships. Adding Marquette, likely at the cost of another of the Orange’s traditional opponents, will likely water down those numbers even more, at least in the short term.
This is no knock on Marquette, which appears to be doing it the right way. It has hired former Maryland coach and Desko’s close friend Dave Cottle to oversee the transition and will offer the full complement of scholarships from the outset. Still, an eight-team Big East could be good news for the sport but bad news for Syracuse.