Moore Realignment Thoughts
By Scott Moore
Well, well, well! I guess we can all assume that the powers that be in college hockey are not regular readers of my hockey blog. Last month I put forward my proposal for how the teams of the CCHA and WCHA should realign when the Big Ten Hockey Conference begins play in 2013. This week five members of the WCHA and Miami out of the CCHA will announce the creation of a new college hockey conference. As of this writing, Notre Dame and Western Michigan are rumored to be contemplating joining the other 6 to make it an 8 team conference. This would leave both the WCHA and CCHA with just 5 members each... one short of the minimum required to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA post season field of 16.
I just read Paula Weston's newest commentary on USCHO, and she brings up some very valid points regarding the inevitable changes coming to the college hockey landscape. There's an awful lot of hand wringing going on regarding the fate of the smaller schools like Ferris, Lake Superior, Minnesota State and Bemidji State in the post CCHA / WCHA world. In my opinion, these schools will need to come together and be creative about the way they do it.
One thing that could work is for them to band together in a league similar to Atlantic Hockey which limits the number of scholarships the members can offer. Currently NCAA Division 1 hockey programs are allowed to offer 18 scholarships per year. The members of Atlantic Hockey this spring voted to keep limiting their members to just 12. Seems to me that with the enhanced travel expenses for schools like Bowling Green, Ferris and Lake Superior (having to bus to Minnesota for games at Minn State, St.Cloud and Bemidji and possibly pay their own way to Alaska) reducing the expense of a few scholarships could help offset the lack of TV revenue they'll most certainly experience in the new landscape.
Ah, the Alaska Schools! What will become of them? Many people don't know that the University of Alaska pays the majority of the travel expenses for their CCHA Opponents. It was part of the agreement for their school to join the conference, and I understand that UA annually requests to be released from that obligation (to no avail... surprised?). I have no idea whether UAA has a similar agreement with the WCHA. When the smaller schools realign, will the 2 from the 49th state be invited, or will the little guys show them the same disdain they were shown by the bigger schools? And will they hold the line on the Nanooks footing the bill for the travel expense? Likewise, will the smaller schools put the welcome mat out for Alabama Huntsville, currently the only D-1 independent in the nation?
Whatever happens, I think that in regards to scheduling, we'll start to see the smaller schools follow the lead of the small D1 schools in Football and Basketball where they'll agree to come in for a payday, or schedule more "2 for 1 series". With the Big Ten (and possibly the other new conference) playing a 20 game conference season, there will be plenty of opportunity for the smaller schools to schedule non-conference dates with their former rivals. They'll just need to be inventive (and possibly a bit ruthless) in their negotiations.
Until the next time... Have fun everyone!