College Hockey:
Proposed new conference includes CCHA, WCHA schools

A proposal for the first major change to the college hockey conference picture of the post-Big Ten era is circulating, and an accelerated timeline could lead to an agreement within the next two weeks.

Some CCHA and WCHA schools have discussed leaving their conferences for a new league, sources have told USCHO.

The schools include North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College and Nebraska-Omaha from the WCHA and Notre Dame, Miami and possibly Western Michigan from the CCHA, sources indicated.

If those eight teams leave their conferences, the CCHA and WCHA would each be left with five schools, one fewer than is traditionally required to maintain an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Sources said agreements to join the proposed conference could come by the middle of July.

Notre Dame associate athletic director Tom Nevala said the school has been approached by “any number of entities trying to determine whether we might have an interest in another arrangement,” but he would not comment specifically on the potential for a new conference.

He also said the only time frame Notre Dame has been asked to consider is a CCHA request of all of its teams to make their future intentions known by the league’s August meeting.

“We’re at a stage where we’re still analyzing our continued affiliation with the CCHA,” Nevala said. “The league has provided us a bunch of information so that we can understand what it will mean to still be in the CCHA going forward.”

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said his league has studied different scenarios that have been floated in an offseason full of speculation about college hockey’s future. But he said this proposal seems to have more momentum.

“I’m not sure why or whatever; I’m not privy to those conversations. I’ve never had a conversation with North Dakota or Denver about their plans that they’re pushing,” McLeod said. “At this point, I haven’t thought about Plan B at all. I’m still working on the assumption that we’re together as 10 [teams after Minnesota and Wisconsin leave for the Big Ten] and, as unanimously directed by the group in Florida [at league meetings in April], can consider extending an invitation to anybody that could strengthen the league. And that’s our plan.”

Athletic directors at Denver and North Dakota could not be reached for comment.

But in a Grand Forks Herald story, North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison said schools have been looking into new possibilities.

“At the end of the day, we have to do what’s in the best interest of UND hockey, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Faison told the paper. “It’s an emotional decision. It’s a business decision.”

Minnesota-Duluth athletic director Bob Nielson told the Duluth News Tribune that the school’s intent is to be a member of the WCHA, but it is considering its options.

“We’re concerned about the college hockey landscape,” Nielson said. “We’re looking at all the options of what could happen. Our hockey program is very important to our school, and we want to be proactive.”

The long-rumored emergence of a Big Ten hockey conference became reality in March, when the conference announced the five current Division I hockey-playing schools would join with newcomer Penn State to form a league in the fall of 2013.

Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State will leave the 11-team CCHA at that point, and Minnesota and Wisconsin will leave the 12-team WCHA.

In the wake of that announcement, speculation has grown about a large-scale shuffle of schools, mainly in the West. Hockey East has been part of the discussion also, with the Bangor Daily News reporting that Notre Dame is also considering that league as a potential destination.

If the proposed eight-team league becomes a reality, it would leave Alaska, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State and Northern Michigan in the CCHA. The WCHA would include Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.

McLeod said the WCHA has again lifted its moratorium on expansion to pursue other teams. That was last lifted in 2009, when the league temporarily accepted applications that led to the inclusion of Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha last season.

Contributing: Jim Connelly, Todd D. Milewski, Paula C. Weston

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  • Joe C

    If Hockey East is able to snag Notre Dame, expect UConn to get the invite as well. Hockey East does not want an odd number of teams. Adding Notre Dame and UConn aligns very nicely with the Big East, with the obvious exception of Boston College. BC has a long history in HE, so no worries on that front. Two very large universities with access to TV markets outside of traditional HE television. With UConn, HE might even get time to be shown on ESPNU.

    Hockey East and ECAC are in good shape with any changes to the NCAA conference alignment. If either league has a good opportunity to add teams that make sense academically, geographically and economically, they will do so.

    I feel for what would remain of WCHA/CCHA and the sacrifice of two rich histories for the lure of cash in Big 10 hockey. However, having the Big 10 Network and possibly better TV coverage of Hockey East and the new “Western” conference, it may be possible to grow the sport.

    I wonder what the remaining schools might do. Perhaps Atlantic Hockey might become a larger conference, but I worry about the scholarships.

    • FD8

      Hockey East would never take UConn for the men. Not unless they actually start putting some money into their program. Highly doubt that will happen given squeak-ball.

  • Spanky

    The remaining leftovers can then from a conference coined “the atlantic hockey of the west”

    • Anonymous

      If such conference realignment were to pan out the so-called “left overs” would actually make a fairly decent conference – geographically spread out, true - but similar sized (please don’t post to tell me the enrollment numbers, I looked, there is a range – but you know what I mean) and they’re similar academically. 

      So probably not the worst case scenario. 

  • Jake

    Sure, just as my alma mata (sp?) Bemidji State University finds a home in the WCHA, they may have to look elsewhere again! I guess if the said schools make a new conference, the remaining batch, and maybe Huntsville, can make a new conference, that is if Huntsville is still playing, though I dont think they will be folding.

  • bigten=joke

    I hope the big ten conference is a joke each year and they all choke. They are breaking up rivalries that span 50+ years. It is an absolute shame. I thought college sports was more than just money. apparently not to the big ten. I hope they get crushed each season while the teams they left behind beat the hell out of them. the big ten can skate around, attempting to be elite. what a joke

    • Money

      Unfortunately men’s hockey has to help pick up the tab for women’s hockey and all the rest of the money losing sports.  Thanks title IX. 

    • YukonTer

      I am guessing that the Big Bad Eight is considering Western is to sweeten the pot to try lure Miami and Notre Dame for travel reasons.  St. Cloud more than doubles the attendance of WMI with Bemidji and Mankato out drawing as well.  They also out draw MIami and Notre Dame.

      Unless you are a football our wrestling fan in Omaha, the stars sure have been line up for UNO the last few years.

  • Bummed

    This will be the eventual “Death Blow” to the remaining WCHA/CCHA Teams.  The BTHC wasn’t the problem but this will be.  5-10 years from now say goodbye to half of the leftovers and probably my team.  Like others, when my team is gone, I will have no interest in college hockey thus no more frozen four trips.  Thank you Denver and UND.  I’m going to put you on my X-mas card list.

  • Teary Eyed

    The Big Ten is the spark that lead to this forest fire, let there be no mistake. Money grabbing rats.

    I really feel sorry for the likes of Bowling Green – believe me they will be and up-and-coming power. There are 5 schools with hockey programs that are within a 3 hour drive of BGSU (OSU, UM, MSU, MU, & ND) and it appears not one of them will be in a conference with them. That, my friends, is a travesty.

    • Guest

      Yeah, it’s a real travesty the Big 10 is doing what they do for 20+ other sports since the 1800′s.  Sorry they stopped making an exception for one sport.   What’s Miami and North Dakota’s excuse?  Let me know when they start playing each other in football, basketball, baseball, softball, tennis, swimming, track, gymnastics, soccer, etc. 

      • Teary Eyed

        You make a good point. Let me know how the BTHC standings go. Where do you think Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern, Nebraska, and Purdue will finish in the standings? My guess is pretty close to the bottom. For the most part, however, they all participate in the sports you mentioned. That’s the difference.

        BTW, make that 6 schools within 3 hours of BGSU. I neglected to mention WMU on the first go-around.

        • Guest

          6 teams for Men’s Gymnastics
          7 teams for Men’s Soccer
          7 teams for Women’s Gymnastics
          7 teams for Rowing
          7 teams for Field Hockey

          If you cry some more maybe the Big 10 will let you join for those sports too. 

  • Mad in Madison

    I just hope the powers that be will wake up and see what a joke this is before it’s too late, and how they are destroying the landscape of a great sport with an even greater fan following.

  • Mister

    as if there was any doubt related to Faison’s comment.  Of course it’s always in the best interests of the program — troubled players given repeat chances (Kristo, Frattin), repeated discipline problems with the coach and others, relaxing academics for the athletes.  duh

    • Hendercutter@yahoo.com

      You must be perfect and great at playing the blame game. If you don’t like und why do you care what conference they play in?

    • hockeyfan

      so where do you get all your information from – fortune cookies? 

  • BeaverHockey

    I don’t know why everybody thinks that the WCHA and CCHA will falter after the Big Ten starts up.  The Big Ten Conference will only have six members, meaning that they will have a whole lot of room for non-conference games.  North Dakota and Duluth can still play Minnesota, Miami and Notre Dame can still play Michigan and Michigan State.  The rivalries will still be there.

    The thing that makes me mad is when schools like North Dakota, Miami and Denver start freaking out about the Big Ten Conference.  The WCHA and CCHA conferences will still be top notch conferences if all the schools just stay put.  The WCHA would still have all the schools that qualified for the NCAA tourney this year (North Dakota, Duluth, Denver, CC, and Omaha.)  The CCHA would still have Miami, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan. 

    I just don’t see the problem with the conferences the way they would be after the Big Ten starts.  

    • Anonymous


      The CCHA could add Huntsville and there would be room for potential expansion in each conference at some point in the future should another school add DI hockey.

      The WCHA was developed a great post season tournement with the F5 and all.  Why UND and UMD would want to give that up is beyond me – huge alumni bases in the Twin Cities, a great college hockey market, and it gives the WCHA a presence in the Twin Cities with MN being out in a couple years. 

    • Hard Fought Sioux Fan

      I disagree with you, Beaver.   Because the Big-10 conference made this move, the removal of those schools in the CCHA & WCHA were true contenders (besides a major rivalry) for the trophy.   I don’t believe you can say the same thing about Minnesota State – Mankato or UA-Anchorage or Ferris State.  You have to face the fact that those leagues have above-average and below-average competing teams.  Yes, they competed; but it’s much like the NY Yankees and the KC Royals in baseball.  There is a baseball game, but 9 of 10 games will go to an eventual outcome.

      This ‘new’ league devised of CC, U-Denver, UND, UM-D, Miami, Notre Dame, etc. gives them the complete upper hand in western USA college hockey.  It would be the premier league of all D-1 (we could argue this until we’re blue in the face).   That is why these schools are considering this option.   If you were the athletic director with one of these schools you would “NEED” this type of format to help your program outlast all others.

      Secondly, this option also creates a major blow to the smaller programs in the CCHA/WCHA.   Can you imagine the increased travel costs for those other programs if they would be forced to combine the remaining teams into one league??   Ouch!   That could buckle some of these programs in the long term. Teams like Bemidji State could be back on as an Independent team if the CCHA/WCHA don’t combine (if the other teams do depart to make a new premier league).

      You have to understand……  UND will do anything to keep 12,000 fans inside of the REA.   On the other hand, Bemidji State is going to keep 3,000 fans no matter who they compete against.  They’re just happy to be in a league!!   If UND doesn’t move to a premier league, yet loses DU, CC, and UM-D…. what would you believe would happen to their constant seating sellout?   They’d fall inside their own death trap!

      The Big-10 announced forced these decisions of survival.   No matter what the outcome there will be a lot of musical chairs in the near future.  It’s sad, but it’s also necessary.

      • flickertail

        ND will still sell out even if they are not playing anyone. It is the ONLY thing going on and Winnepeg is 3 hours away. What else would they do?

        • hockeyfan

          Winnipeg is only 2 hours away from Grand Forks…..  check your facts and your spelling

      • Mike

        Michigan St. and Ohio St. really were competing for the title in the CCHA and Minnesota really was competing for a title in the WCHA.  Not recently!

  • Anegadatortola

    it is just a sad feeling that i have for the world of college hockey.  and the kicker is that this is all about money, period.  greedy p&I(ks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FAWLNDDPH2QLSFPKCWIDPI7MGY Dirk Smith

    I laugh when I see current winning programs deciding they are too good to remain in their respective non-Big Ten conference.  15 years ago Miami, Notre Dame, and other WCHA teams SUCKED.  Notre Dame even dropped their program for a few years.  Did you know Bowling Green has the most victories in the CCHA since they are an original perpetual member of the CCHA?  (Thank you Dr. Vivian!)  Beaverhockey hit the nail on the head; don’t worry about this greedy conference.  Only one of their ‘members’ made the NCAA Tournament this year.  Average at best, especially with the rookie Penn State program gaining their legs.  Exhale everyone.

    • Lordoftherink9

      Miami won thier first CCHA Regular Season Championship in 92-93, along with their first NCAA Bid.  They have been good for 20 years, and really good for the last 8.  Dink!

    • Stats

      Since you threw out 15, here’s how Big Ten schools have fared in the last 15 years:

      - 5 National Championships
      - 15 Frozen Four appearances
      - 48 NCAA Tournament appearances

      Speculate all you want about the impact of the BTHC on college hockey, but you look just plain ignorant when you claim these schools are “average.”

      • Dericson5

        So for the rest it was:
        - 10 National Championships
        - 45 Frozen Four appearances
        - 192 NCAA Tournament appearances

        Looks like the BTHC barely diserves the two automatic bids it will garnish. Hope you all enjoy paying extra on your sports package for the big ten network.

        • B1G Guy

          No problem! Those of us in B1G Country get BTN at no extra charge!

  • 1000 not 110

    There really aren’t any “small” hockey conferences anymore. Perhaps the NCAA, or whoever, should change the rules a bit such that a conference must have 8 teams for an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney instead of 6. I bet that would make very much of this just go away.

  • Bruce

    I am sure Miami’s first choice would be to remain a member of the current CCHA.  However, the departure of UofM, MSU, and OSU not only removes key conference rivals.  It significantly increases the average travel distance to other CCHA members.  Driving from Oxford OH to OSU is about 2 hours and to BGSU is about 3 hours.  Notre Dame, UofM, MSU, and WMU are all 4 to 5 hours away, FSU is 6 hours away, LSSU is 9 hours away, NMU is 11+ hours away, and then there is Alaska.  With the departure of UofM, MSU, and OSU, there are only three CCHA members less than 6 hours from Oxford.  If Notre Dame would join Hockey East, that would be down to two.  With CCHA membership at 7, the remaining members would play each other more often.  For Miami, this would mean longer trips to less prestigious rivals and would definitely impact recruiting.  They probably feel they have no choice but to react.

  • Ken

    Wonder if there are still people that think the Big 10 is going to lead to more college hockey teams.  I laughed at that thought when I read those comments.  Big surprise … the big schools are trying to leave the small schools behind for another new conference already. 

    I feel like the CCHA and WCHA would be just fine the way they are now.  None of the current schools in the WCHA would have to worry about folding or struggling to survive, including North Dakota.

  • Coryc711

    According to the grand forks herald, it’s a done deal for at least 6 teams with a possibility of adding Notre dame and western Michigan

  • pigglegg

    UConn moving to Hockey East isn’t out of the question.  Their women’s team has been in HEA for years.  The issue of the men joining has been discussed by league brass for years but just hasn’t been quite the right time.  but as FD8 said, the Huskies do need to start showing little more financial support for their program.  Throw a little more of that basketball and BCS bowl money at the hockey teams!  They’d need an upgrade of the Freitas Forum to at least 3500 seats.  In the meantime it wouldn’t hurt to schedule a couple HEA opponents – BC, BU or UMass – at the XL Center in Hartford.  believe me, the fans will come.

    URI is another potential addition to HEA.  It’s not talked about much, but i think that program could be the next to join the division 1 hockey ranks.

  • Sueh8ter

    hurry up suzies, run for the hills.  all you clowns did was bash the gophers for leaving and now you are doing the same thing.  CLASSLESS RUBES!!!

    • Suture

      Who is the clown here?  Most comments on here are reasonable as well as diverse. Then, you wake up from the nap your mother made you take and make an asinine comment like this.  Go back to playing video games with your other 10 yr. old friends.  Any more bad mouthing by you and I’ll tell your mother to wash your mouth out with tabasco….:)

  • politicallyincorrect

    Yes, college hockey is more than about money, it’s about politics as well. Men’s hockey has been all dressed up with no place to go for a while now. Money and politics determine most young boys fate in the sport by the time they are 10 years old. Many high level U.S. junior hockey leagues charge players $10,000 plus a year to play with no guarantee of moving on. Title IX has effectively killed the growth of the sport at the college level. Why don’t schools such as Purdue, Illinois, Iowa, Syracuse, and there peers have hockey? If they did, this would all be moot.

  • RobWildcat

    Those leftover CCHA and WCHA schools better merge ASAP!  Time for schools like NMU and St. Cloud to finally make a dang move, and quite sitting on their hands in a coma. 

  • Guest

    Why Can’t NMU or UAF go to I mean they have recently been good, keep in mind if this were a year ago there’s no way WMU is there (I do like WMU though)

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