Representatives of Lindenwood University, an NAIA school located in St. Charles, Mo., approximately 20 miles from St. Louis, met with CHA officials at the recent Coaches Convention in Naples, Fla., as they explore the possibility of playing Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey by 2006.
“There are number of factors still to work out,” said Lindenwood spokesperson Dave Walton. “[But] it has been talked about.”
Lindenwood’s hockey program is not in the NAIA — an athletic association akin to the NCAA — but is rather a member of the American Club Hockey Association (ACHA). It plays its games out of the 10,000-seat Family Arena, home of the professional team in town, the United Hockey League’s Missouri River Otters. The school is talking about building a mid-sized on-campus facility, contingent upon a number of factors, including its ability to play Division I hockey.
Despite its club status, Lindenwood has shown a serious commitment to hockey. The team finished 27-3-1 in just its first year last season, and the program is handled within the athletic department, just like its varsity programs.
Meanwhile, its current NAIA sports would remain in the NAIA.
Though plenty of hurdles remain, the move would coincide perfectly with the Frozen Four’s arrival in St. Louis at the end of the 2006-07 season.
Missouri-St. Louis is another school in that area that had expressed interest in joining the CHA to coincide with the Frozen Four. However, it removed itself from the process after a change in priorities on campus.
One of the biggest remaining hurdles for Lindenwood is getting a waiver from the NAIA to allow the school to play in the NCAA. The NAIA does not ordinarily allow its schools to have some of its programs participating in the NCAA.
But Lindenwood is only looking to play in the NCAA in sports it currently has club teams for, such as hockey and potentially one or two others. The remainder of its programs would stay in the NAIA.
“We’re still not sure of some of the ramifications,” Walton said, who noted the school may also have to work out issues with the NCAA.
In addition, the school plans on maintaining a separate club hockey program, according to coach Derek Schaub.
The addition of Lindenwood would provide a boost to the CHA, which has a precarious hold on its automatic NCAA bid. The CHA has six teams, the minimum for an autobid. Findlay has dropped its program, but will be replaced in 2004-05 with Robert Morris.
However, the agreement with Robert Morris is only for one year, and its administration is said to prefer Atlantic Hockey.
Members of the NCAA hockey community recently met in Boston during the Frozen Four to discuss ways of helping the CHA.
On a related note, Lindenwood is exploring a bid to host the 2005 CHA tournament, held the last two years in Kearney, Neb., at Family Arena. Kearney organizers have decided not to pursue the event again, and officials from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, took themselves out of the running.
Also entering a serious bid were officials from TECO Arena in Estero, Fla., home of the Florida Everblades of the ECHL and of the Everblades Classic college tournament held each Christmas, featuring the likes of Cornell, Maine and Ohio State. Omaha has also expressed interest in the event.
Schaub previously coached the school to a pair of national roller hockey championships and is a former pro roller hockey player.