College Hockey Inc. will ask the NCAA next month to add a temporary travel exemption for Alabama-Huntsville in hopes of helping the struggling independent team schedule more home games.
The NCAA’s travel exemption, which allows schools to travel for games in Alaska and Hawaii and not have them count toward their season limit — 34 regular-season contests in Division I hockey — would need to be passed soon. Many hockey programs are close to finalizing next season’s schedule if the administrators haven’t already.
College Hockey Inc. executive director Paul Kelly said the organization, which promotes the college game, would ask for the exemption to last two to three years during its regularly scheduled meeting with top NCAA officials.
“I’m not sure if it is even doable for next year,” Kelly said after Saturday’s Alaska-Anchorage at Colorado College game in Colorado Springs, Colo. “But the NCAA can move quickly if it wants to.”
Scheduling home games has always been tough for UAH, but the Chargers (1-17-1) lost most of their 2012-13 scheduled opponents, home and away, after school administrators announced on Oct. 24 that they would drop the Division I program to club status for next season.
Many of the Chargers’ scheduled opponents spent the next month scheduling new opponents.
The decision to pull the plug on the varsity program was reversed Tuesday, prompting Kelly to propose the temporary rule. He hopes the NCAA will see fit to approve it.
“It’s what they need,” Kelly said. “They need to fill those holes. It wouldn’t set a precedent because the move would be temporary because of an unusual situation.”
If the NCAA moves quickly, Kelly expects coaches to take advantage of their 2012-13 bye weeks to schedule the Chargers, who already pay for some of their opponents’ travel expenses.
“Most coaches love to play more games,” he said.
Of course, life would be much simpler for the Chargers if they were a member of a conference with much of its schedule filled by league games.
Kelly said Atlantic Hockey may be “the only legit candidate” for UAH, which has been an independent since the CHA folded in 2010.
It is unlikely UAH will have any neighbors to form a southern conference anytime soon.
Kelly said several schools, including a couple in the Southeast, have “kicked the tires” about adding men’s hockey. No additions are imminent, he added.
UAH is the host school for this season’s Frozen Four, April 5 and 7 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla.