Other sports eye move

Ryan Nilsson

Rolf declined to comment on the content of the meeting, but it’s not hard to figure out what she lobbied for based on her comments about joining the 16-team Big East.

“I’m excited to be moving to the Big East Conference,” Rolf said. “It’s a very strong conference, especially for volleyball.”

Her enthusiasm about switching conferences and playing against stronger competition was mirrored by many of the other non-basketball coaches at Marquette.

“I think this is unbelievable,” said women’s tennis coach Jody Bronson. “This is the greatest opportunity since I’ve been here — and I’ve been here the longest of all the coaches.

“You always want, as a coach and as an athlete, to compete against the best. You want to raise the bar.”

Men’s soccer coach Steve Adlard expressed a similar opinion.

“It’s nice to play against the best,” he said. “It helps your (Ratings Percentage Index), and we’re all about putting it on the line and not sandbagging. We want credible wins.”

Adlard and his players will have plenty of opportunities for those wins when Marquette joins the Big East in the 2005-’06 academic year. Last year the men’s soccer teams at Connecticut, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Seton Hall advanced to the NCAA tournament. Connecticut won the tournament in 2000, and St. John’s was the national champion in 1996.

Another team that will run into tougher competition when Marquette switches conferences is the cross country squad.

Based on the MONDO Men’s Rankings, three teams in the Big East are in the top 30, while no C-USA team is nationally ranked. The change won’t be any easier for the women’s cross country team.

“It’s certainly going to be much harder to win,” said cross country coach Dave Uhrich. “Last year on the women’s side the Big East had four of the top 10 teams in the country.

“It certainly makes it much harder to be a conference champion, but that’s OK. If we can be as good a team or better, finishing lower in the conference but higher in nationals, I’m OK with that.”

To succeed against tougher competition, Marquette coaches believe they must place a high emphasis on recruiting athletes. Many believe that will be easier to do now that Marquette is switching conferences.

“The Big East is a big name — that looms large and brings prestige when you’re recruiting an athlete,” Bronson said.

Uhrich also believes the move will play to his advantage when recruiting.

“Anytime you go into a more prestigious conference, it obviously makes it easier to recruit — especially with East Coast athletes,” he said.

Amidst all the excitement, Adlard expressed a bit of caution. He’s uncertain how many conference games his team will be required to play, but he’s aware of the NCAA rule limiting the total number of matches per year to 20.

“Because of the large number of schools (in the Big East) we don’t know how much flexibility we’ll have for scheduling,” he said. “We don’t know if we’ll be able to host a tournament, play at an away tournament, and play against the local rivals for the state championship.”

Another question that remains unanswered is what the last two years in C-USA will be like.

“Nobody really talked about it,” Uhrich said. “I don’t think it’ll make that much of a difference. I don’t think there’ll be any negative feelings toward us. And the good thing is that there are five of us leaving, not just one school.”