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BU moving to Patriot

Hockey programs not part of deal

By Alex Prewitt
Globe Correspondent / June 16, 2012
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As college athletics experiences what Boston University athletic director Mike Lynch calls a seismic shift with regard to conference realignment and migration, midmajor schools have benefited from a domino effect. BU is the latest to take advantage.

The Terriers have accepted an invitation to join the Patriot League effective July 1, 2013.

“The Patriot League presents an opportunity to go someplace that’s extremely stable with brand-name institutions,’’ said Lynch. “That was absolutely a factor. It was a long, thoughtful process that our president went through. We had a number of different options to consider.’’

The BU hockey programs will remain in Hockey East, but the Terriers will join the Patriot in men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross-country and track and field, field hockey, women’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, women’s rowing, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and men’s and women’s tennis.

Lynch declined to comment on specifics, but the Terriers, who had been part of the America East Conference in most sports, were considered a target for the Colonial Athletic Association, which lost Virginia Commonwealth to the Atlantic 10 and Old Dominion to Conference USA. Instead, BU saw the Patriot as its most stable opportunity, one consistent with its academic and athletic mission.

“When you’re in the midst of these discussions, certainly you’re investigating every possibility,’’ Lynch said. “You almost have to think three moves ahead. With the Patriot League, we knew that there was going to be a stable group of schools that we could relate to and compete with, and that was a driving factor.

“For a long time, we’ve presented ourselves as being excellent in academics and athletics and in our community. This allows us to participate against schools that BU wants to affiliate itself with academically.’’

Once switching conferences became commonplace at the BCS level, midmajors such as BU opened up conversations with other institutions and leagues. According to Lynch, exploratory talks between BU and the Patriot League have been occurring for “the past four or five years.’’

“This is not something the Patriot League does frequently,’’ league executive director Carolyn Femovich said. “Part of our strength has been our stability, but expanding beyond eight members is something we’ve been talking about for some time. This really seemed to be the right time.

“I think it’s an important move for us, as we look to strengthen the profile of the league.’’

The Patriot League began in 1986 as the football-only Colonial League, turning into an all-sport conference in 1990-91. Now it brings in BU, which eliminated varsity football in 1997.

But the Terriers’ addition of a men’s varsity lacrosse team for the 2013-14 academic year should mesh well with their new home. Patriot schools Colgate and Lehigh reached the NCAA Tournament this year in men’s lacrosse and finished ranked top 10 nationally.

“We know football is a big piece of their history, but we know that lacrosse is a big piece of their future,’’ Lynch said. “That’s more of what we were attracted to.’’

BU, a founding member of the America East in 1979, will join American University, the most recent team to join the Patriot League in 2001, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Army, and Navy as full members.

The Patriot League’s gain is America East’s loss. The Terriers have won the conference’s Commissioner Cup, annually awarded to the school that performs best across in all sports, for seven straight years.

Through a statement on its website, America East commissioner Amy Huchthausen said BU president Robert A. Brown informed her of the decision on Thursday.

“The conference wishes BU well in its future,’’ Huchthausen said. “As with many conferences, we have been actively engaged in conversations regarding membership for some time. We will continue those discussions with our presidents, but consistent with our philosophy, will do so in a confidential manner and will not discuss specific institutions.’’

Alex Prewitt can be reached at aprewitt@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt.

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