Two programs likely to be in the mix for ECAC expansion are Michigan and High Point, and officials within both programs have confirmed that they’ve expressed interest to the league. The NCAA confirmed Wednesday that first-year programs are eligible to join conferences and participate in postseason play.
(Emphasis mine, of course). I had previously believed that inclusion in the ECAC would be transitional or unofficial, as first-year programs have historically been ineligible to participate in NCAA postseason play in any sport, but this seems to confirm that, as long as Bill Tierney wasn’t yanking our leg, Michigan will be a full-fledged ECAC member next spring.
The conference currently has 7 members, so adding Michigan and High Point could mean the ECAC is looking for another new member in order to go to a divisional format with 5-team East and West divisions. Penn State is mentioned in the article as a possibility, though the Nittany Lions left the ECAC 2 years ago for the Colonial Athletic Association.
As seems to be the usual case with conference alignment articles of late, there’s mention of a future Big Ten Lacrosse conference:
“It’s difficult to say because the schools that make up the ECAC all belong to other primary conferences,” Keeling said. “If the Big Ten would come up with a lacrosse conference it would have to take Ohio State and that would change the dynamic.”
Assuming the realignment picture happens as the article lays out (and keep in mind this wouldn’t be until very far in the future, as 3 more Big Ten schools would have to add lacrosse programs), the ECAC could be losing as many as 3 teams.
More on this situation as it develops.