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Syracuse Lacrosse: The NCAA officially denies the ACC a 2017 AQ waiver

As was a possibility, the NCAA denied granting the ACC an extra year with an automatic qualifier while also eliminating one play-off game from the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Ah yes it is official. According to a letter written to Inside Lacrosse by the NCAA, the ACC was not given a waiver to have its automatic qualifier into this season. A conference needs six programs to hold an automatic qualifier. After Maryland left the bolted for the Big 10, the ACC was left with five programs. The NCAA allowed the ACC to keep its AQ for two seasons following the loss of Maryland, but that ended at the end of last season. While the denial of a waiver was always a strong possibility, it is now acknowledged by the NCAA as fact.

Furthermore, the bigger revelation is that there will only be one play-in game for the 2017 tournament, meaning only 17 teams, not 18, will have a shot at the NCAA Championship.

So what does this mean for the Syracuse Orange and the rest of the ACC?

There will still be an ACC Tournament and still be an ACC Champion. The only difference is that champion will not be guaranteed entry into the NCAAT. That means that if a squad makes it to the ACCT it will still have the opportunity to potentially play two games to boost its at-large resume. Unless it is an incredibly competitive year and we have some upsets in other conference championships, it is hard to fathom that the winner of the ACCT won’t make the cut. Ultimately this isn’t likely to have a major impact for the ACC.

However, Wednesday’s news could cause a problem for non-ACC programs. Given that now there are only 17 programs invited to the NCAAT (including the play-in teams) an ACC team could make a late season run in the ACC Tournament and steal an at-large bid over another non-ACC team. For example, let’s say that heading into conference championship weekend Syracuse is ranked fourth in the ACC with a mediocre record and on the wrong side of the NCAAT bubble. Then let’s say Harvard is second in the IVY League and is on the right side of the bubble. Now let’s say SU goes on to win the ACC Championship while Harvard falls in the first round of the IVY Tournament. If this was 2016, SU would grab the AQ and Harvard would still have the potential of grabbing one of the eight at-large bids. But now there’s a chance that SU could take an at-large bid away from Harvard, leaving the Crimson out of the NCAAT. Is that likely? Probably not, things would have to line up just right. Although it certainly gives us another angle to look at as we approach the end of the season.

Overall, reducing the number of teams in the NCAA Tournament field is not beneficial to lacrosse, a sport that has been clamoring for Tournament expansion. Personally, I don’t see the harm in giving the ACC a waiver. Not only would the NCAA be preserving one more at-large bid, but in not granting a waiver it may be forgoing the chance to bring in another ACC team and its larger fan base.