ANDOVER, Mass. — Though the winds of change are blowing for Atlantic Hockey, for the present time things will stay the same.
Commissioner Bob DeGregorio confirmed today that the league has chosen not to make any increase in scholarship monies given by member schools for the 2004-05 season. This comes after the athletic directors voted against the increase during league meetings in Albany, N.Y., May 11 and 12.
Still, that doesn’t mean by the end of the summer this might not change for the future.
According to DeGregorio, the nine athletic directors will reconvene on a conference call June 2 with the scholarship increase for future seasons, beginning with the 2005-06 campaign, a top agenda item.
“Everyone knew [scholarships] were on the list [of items to discuss], but the ADs weren’t prepared to make decisions at that time,” said DeGregorio. He also noted that league expansion, as well, was a hot issue that could not be agreed on at the meetings earlier this month.
Atlantic Hockey, assuming the same structure it had when its members were under the leadership of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, currently allows member schools to offer only 11 scholarships. Proposals have been discussed that would raise the limits to either 15 or the NCAA maximum of 18.
In regards to expansion, Atlantic Hockey is in a precarious position with four of its members — Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac — having made applications to the ECAC for membership. Thus expansion could soon be not only a topic of discussion but extremely necessary should one or more members defect.
“We had a commissioners’ call yesterday and we talked in general terms of what potentially could happen,” said DeGregorio about the ECAC situation. “Depending on how many schools [the ECAC] takes, it will set the dominos in place to start falling again.”
Two other issues of discussion have to do with postseason. For the third time in as many years, the league will have a new playoff format. Though the tournament will continue to play a single-elimination format from start to finish, the host schools will change from last year.
All nine teams will once again make the tournament. On Tuesday, March 8, the eighth seed will host the ninth seed in a play-in game. The following Saturday, the top four seeds will host the bottom four seeds for a one-game quarterfinal. At that point, the highest remaining team will then host the league’s final four the weekend of March 18 and 19.
This is a major change from this year’s format which saw Army, the league’s top facility, host the tournament over two weekends from beginning to end.
“Everybody that talked to me said that West Point did a great job of hosting this year’s tournament,” said DeGregorio. “That said, the one thing the coaches recommended to the ADs is that the top four teams should be rewarded for the season and be able to host the first round of the playoffs.”
Also on the postseason front is the league and its members’ attempts to host an NCAA tournament. League member Sacred Heart has made clear its intentions to bid for an NCAA Regional using the nearby Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn., as the venue. Sacred Heart has played a handful of games at Harbor Yard, which currently houses the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.
“[The league] voted to support [Sacred Heart's] efforts as a league and we will work with them on the bid,” said DeGregorio. “What we’re trying to do is to be a full-functioning Division I hockey league in all aspects — everything from improving our league to getting more involved in a greater magnitude in the national picture.”
Bids for the 2008 through 2011 regional tournament, according to DeGregorio, will be accepted this September. DeGregorio noted that Holy Cross, using the Worcester Centrum and Connecticut, using the Hartford Civic Center, are also exploring regional bids.