Editor’s Note: Jim Siedliski is the BIG EAST’s Associate Commissioner for Sport Administration. He oversees all aspects of the conference’s Olympic sport administration and championships. He joined the league’s staff in 1998. This is the first of a two-part interview on this year’s inaugural BIG EAST Men’s Lacrosse Championship to be held May 3 & 5 at Villanova University. For more on the championship visit www.BIGEASTLacrosse.com
You’re on the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Committee – talk about how this championship will effect NCAA selection and seeding.
So for our membership, our teams, it’s huge. You get a team like Notre Dame, number three in the country. If they stumble, they’re still going to get in and someone else will get that AQ. Villanova, who is our #2 seed and #12 in the RPI. Number twelve sounds solid, but in a field of 16 you really are on the razor’s edge. They play the number three seed Syracuse – an iconic program – that clearly needs something to get them to the next level, the NCAAs. Their RPI now is 19, their strength of schedule is tremendous but they have no wins against the RPI top ten. You get a team like St. John’s – they’re upwardly mobile, this is not a fluke. They for all intents and purposes they need to win this to be selected to the NCAA Championship.
But also for seeding; first rounds are on campus, so half the field gets to host. Notre Dame will be hosting, Villanova can put themselves in position to host if they run the table. There are other conferences out there, if the ‘wrong team’ wins the AQ now you have a conference that was only a one or two bid league but a team that wins the conference tournament wins who wouldn’t normally be in, that becomes a three bid league. When you have seven AQs out of a sixteen team field you only have nine at large positions. It looks like all the ACC teams will go, Hopkins is going to go, if Loyola, who is undefeated and number one in the country, doesn’t win their AQ they are going to go and UMass has a great shot at going even if they don’t win their conference tournament. So you could be down to two. So if things break a certain way there will be some legitimate teams left out. The effect is significant.
How do you balance your work with the NCAA committee and your role with the BIG EAST?
It’s neat because the energy feeds of on another. You devote energy to the championship by working with coaches. Big things to little things like practice times, uniform colors and banquet scripts. Then you get on your regional conference call so you have that back and forth and understand the impact and the momentum building from this championship. Things from working on our Groupon initiative to working signing up partners for the championship like Crooked Arrow and Gait Lacrosse. You feel something moving forward and it keeps you rolling.
There are two parallel truths and they feed off each other – and beyond that I’ve been called a vampire because I never sleep (laughter).
What does the future of BIG EAST Men’s Lacrosse look like?
I think the neat thing is that we can take stock in what we have now. I’m going to remind everyone at the banquet that we need to live in the here and now. We know there are going to be changes but that’s not going to take away from what we are accomplishing now and next season as well. Syracuse is still amember of this league in excellent standing. They are going to be hosting the championship next year. We look forward to going to that cathedral of men’s lacrosse – it should be a blast to be there. But I think what the future in totality holds is all these other programs that are upwardly mobile. They are devoting more resources; be it scholarship, staffing, operating budget, recruiting resources, marketing budget, facilities, et cetera, et cetera.
Notre Dame’s facility is only two years old, Georgetown is making constant improvements, Rutgers is doing some things to Yurcak, Providence is getting a new facility made. Marquette will not be an official member next year, they will be in 2014. But they will be playing a pretty large scale non-conference draw with most of our members. Next year, I wouldn’t want to be a coach voting on the preseason poll. Because of programs moving up like St. John’s; the depth of teams like Georgetown. Villanova is doing great things, Rutgers has a new coach. It’s a complete toss-up.
The great thing is the television exposure we’re getting. It’s a sport where once you get outside the Final Four it’s out there. Between that and softball and baseball it has a pretty significant draw. That goes to the branding and why our membership thought it was very important to pull our teams under one umbrella. Frankly, men’s lacrosse has never been stronger. Next year another league – the NEC – is getting an AQ bid so that’s eight conferences, half the field. The sport on a whole is going to continue to get ratcheted up. There are three new institutions adding the sport next year, Boston University, High Point and Marquette.
Our future is tremendous. Our coaches are dialed in. They get it, they’re well respected. Some of these coaches are Hall of Famers. The best thing about them is that they work together in the best interest of the league and they get the big picture.