Syracuse lacrosse faces huge challenge in ACC

Syracuse lost to Duke in the NCAA finals last year

Syracuse basketball will fit in just fine in the ACC. Syracuse football is doing no worse than it did in the Big East. The Syracuse team with the biggest challenge in the new conference is men’s lacrosse.

Nearly all six ACC men’s lacrosse teams have championship traditions. All have had top-notch players.

Syracuse lost to Duke in the NCAA finals last year

Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Notre Dame will be fun to watch in 2014. A current ACC team has won five national titles in the past six years and 11 in the past 15.

Syracuse, of course, has won 11 national titles—the last coming in 2009. Duke owns titles from last year and 2010. Virginia topped Maryland in 2011 for its fifth championship. North Carolina hasn’t won since 1991, but has four trophies. Maryland has reached the final 11 times and has a pair of titles from 1973 and 1975.

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse schedule should be a beast

Meanwhile, Notre Dame hasn’t won a national title, but reached the final in 2010 and is widely seen as an emerging program.

That’s 24 championships in the 43 years lacrosse has been an NCAA sport. At least one ACC team has played in the championship game 27 times, and an ACC team has made a championship appearance 47 times.

Not to be outdone are the players, such as the brothers Powell (Mike, Casey and Ryan) and Gait (Paul and Gary), Steele Stanwick, Paul Rabil and Matt Ward at Virginia, and Matt Danowski and Ned Crotty at Duke. An ACC player has won eight of the past 13 Tewaaraton Awards.

ACC lacrosse has the chance to be truly special. Better than football in the SEC, but perhaps not quite as good as the PAC 12 in water polo—winners of 15 straight and nearly all national titles since 1969.

What could be somewhat concerning come 2015, after Maryland leaves, is that the conference will lose it’s automatic qualifier. Conferences must have at least six programs to receive the slot.

» Related: Syracuse lacrosse 2014: Who’s out, who’s back, who’s coming

ACC teams haven’t been hindered in reaching the postseason without the automatic qualifier, but it would be a welcome relief after a grueling schedule in the conference.

That may be why there are some faint rumors the ACC could approach Johns Hopkins as an affiliate member. When Inside Lacrosse asked Kris Pierce, ACC Senior Associate Commissioner, Championships & Senior Woman Administrator, in October about the possibility of affiliate membership, she said, “Affiliate membership has been discussed recently by the ACC institutions, and our league has decided to continue the long-standing policy of no affiliate memberships.”

Current ACC schools without the sport could decide to add lacrosse to their rosters too, but imagine inserting Hopkins and its nine national titles to the mix. Maybe then ACC lacrosse could challenge PAC 12 water polo with complete dominance in a sport.

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About Dan Brannigan 71 Articles
Dan is currently the editor of Common Ground magazine for Community Associations Institute (CAI) where he has won an Association Media & Publishing award for newswriting. Dan has also won a New England Press Association award while working for the The Inquirer and Mirror in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where he grew up. Dan is a 2005 Syracuse University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @djbranni.