HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — National champion Alabama-Huntsville became the latest school to depart the vanishing ranks of Division II hockey Monday, announcing its intention to move the program to Division I. UAH could be eligible for D-I postseason play as early as the 2000-2001 season.
“Membership in Division II has gone down,” said athletic director Jim Harris in the Huntsville Times. “We felt it was in our best interests to keep enthusiasm high for college ice hockey and in the best interest of our program to move to Division I.”
UAH’s jump, coming after similar moves by Bemidji State and Mercyhurst — the latter to join the newly-formed MAAC hockey conference — leaves only five schools committed to D-II men’s hockey.
“I’m really thrilled,” head coach Doug Ross told the Times. “As a Division I independent a few years back, the team represented the institution well. The fans were excited, and we hope to bring the excitement back to the Von Braun Center.”
Alabama-Huntsville competed as a D-I independent from 1987 to 1992 before moving down to Division II, where the Chargers had won two of the last three national titles; the third was claimed by Bemidji State.
UAH is reportedly interested in conference affiliation for its second tour of D-I, but is planning an alliance with other D-I independents in the interim to relieve scheduling difficulties. Niagara, Bemidji State, Army and Air Force have been mentioned as part of that alliance, as has Mankato State, though that school was recently admitted to the WCHA.