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College Hockey:
Points for Effort, but Proposed NCAA Changes Have Issues, Too

There has to be a better way, right?

When you look at the attendance numbers from this year’s NCAA regionals and consider the less-than-impressive atmosphere at some of the venues, it’s natural to try to come up with a tweak — an improvement that will make things right.

One such proposal emerged at last week’s American Hockey Coaches Association convention, according to Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald. Read his story for the full details (he deserves the pub and his paper’s site deserves the click), but in a nutshell, a popular idea is to make eight best-of-three series at campus sites in the first round, with the winners proceeding to one of two regional sites where single-elimination games will determine the Frozen Four field.

On the surface, it sounds like a decent idea in the interest of overall attendance and atmosphere. Nothing will be better than a home rink for fostering an intense, interested setting, but the NCAA has also realized there are overwhelming advantages to playing at home, and we’ve seen in recent years a move away from campus sites for the regionals.

I’ll list a few other problems I have with this proposal below, but here’s my main one: Doesn’t this just push the same problems onto another weekend?

So you play the first round on campus. Fine. The eight teams that remain get divided into two regionals, where each will play one game with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line. I can see the same problems we’ve seen in the past (crowds not big enough, not loud enough, not interested enough) still happening. If you have a regional in Worcester, Mass., for instance, you’re going to have two games, and what’s to say that the Boston College fans that show up to watch their team play in the first are going to stay around for the second, or vice versa? Even if your overall attendance number looks better, does that make it better that the second game is played in front of a half-empty arena?

If you’re going to go to home sites for the first round, I think you have to do it for the second round, too.

Other issues:

* How do you make television work? It’s not great right now, but at least SOMEONE is televising all of the games as the system stands. That becomes a lot tougher when you add games, sites and the potential for third games when the networks won’t know for sure they have it until the day before.

* Taking last year as an example (more on that later), Bemidji State would have hosted a first-round series, and it would have been at the Glas Fieldhouse, capacity 2,500. I don’t doubt the Bemidji fans’ ability to make that a championship atmosphere, but could that building really have been a championship site? How do you get TV produced there? (I’ve seen it tried; it isn’t pretty.) I know this is a moot point as far as Bemidji is concerned because of its new arena, but there are rinks across the country about which you could ask the same questions. You never know when they’re going to be a one or two seed.

* The NCAA has to have some financial guarantees when it comes to the postseason, and it is a lot tougher to make those when you’re awarding the hosting privileges to schools a week in advance.

I’ll give those who came up with this idea full marks for effort. I just don’t think it’s the way to go.

But in the spirit of playing along, here’s how the 2010 tournament may have looked under this format, if you went straight down the bracket 1-16:

Alabama-Huntsville at Miami

RIT at Denver

Vermont at Wisconsin

Alaska at Boston College

Michigan at North Dakota

New Hampshire at St. Cloud State

Northern Michigan at Cornell

Yale at Bemidji State

There are a lot of teams traveling a long way in that scenario, and unless the NCAA suddenly is OK with that under this proposal, I’m guessing they’d move things around. I’m no Jayson Moy, but my guess is you’d actually see something like this:

Alabama-Huntsville at Miami

Alaska at Denver (although this would have been really unfair to the Pioneers)

Vermont at Wisconsin

RIT at Boston College

Michigan at North Dakota

Northern Michigan at St. Cloud State

New Hampshire at Cornell

Yale at Bemidji State

Do you like the new proposal? Let us know in the comments.

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