USCHO.com and the NCAA teamed up Friday afternoon for the inaugural Town Meeting, a forum between the fans and representatives of the NCAA Championship Committee held at Albany’s Empire State Convention Center.
Hundreds attended the event, hosted by USCHO.com general manager Jayson Moy and held after the Hobey Baker Memorial Award presentation. The panel consisted of NCAA Director of Championships Tom Jacobs; Bill Wilkinson of Wayne State; Ian McCaw of Northeastern; Jack McDonald of Quinnipiac; and Ron Grahame of Denver.
Jacobs and Wilkinson handled most of the inquiries, limited by design to the Frozen Four.
Among the discussion responses, the committee announced that it is in favor of expansion of the NCAA men’s tournament to 16 teams, and that, should the tournament expand, to go to four regional sites.
Moreover, in light of the continuing expansion of Division I hockey, the championship committee will be expanded from four to six members to give representations to all conferences with automatic bids — hinting that the CHA will receive its automatic berth in a couple of years.
“We’d like to thank the NCAA men’s hockey committee for participating in our town meeting this year,” Moy said. “It shows you how dedicated the committee is to promoting college hockey.”
“I was very pleased with the turnout, and the quality and knowledge that the fans showed in asking their questions,” Moy said. USCHO.com plans to make the Town Meeting an annual event.
The fans were pleased as well.
“This was a great forum and long overdue,” said Greg Mack of Colonie, N.Y., who asked the final question of the panel. “It was nice for the committee to talk one-on-one with the public where they could not give the typical pad-and-stad answer.”
Highlights from the exchange included:
“We’d like to have a 16-team tournament and the championship cabinet has approved our request to expand the tournament. At this point, there are five sports in line for it and it needs to be approved by the whole board of governors. We are working hard to meet the criteria of the NCAA, first that we can meet the expenses of expansion, and second that we are giving opportunity equally for women’s sports.
“We need to make the PAC-10 and the ACC aware of the great success of college hockey. I’m confident that this can happen sometime soon, but in all things there are politics. It’s completely unanimous in college hockey that we need to do this.”
“As a coach, I’d like to go to four regionals to have regional champions … [so that] if you win your region, you have something to hang your hat on. Now, if you lose you go away with a negative feeling and not until later do you realize what a great season you had.”
“There are a lot of factors that go into it and seating is one important factor. We implemented a new capacity requirement of 15,000 because of the ever-improving popularity of this event and we want to accommodate as many fans as possible.
There are other factors that play into the decision including a strong local organizing committee and certainly the building itself … We want to provide the best possible experience for student-athletes.”
“CBS will have the rights to all our championship events, they may subcontract out events if they don’t want to do it. The regionals don’t fall within that package so hopefully we can work something out to get all of our games on television … As we move past 2002, it’s all a guess right now.”
“We made a recommendation and it was accepted to expand the championship committee from four to six teams. If any conference has an automatic bid, they need to have representation. Right now there will be five, with one at-large slot with, in the future, the CHA getting one when they are eligible in a couple of years.”
“The ticket allocation to participating schools has been increased, actually. It used to be 400 and it has been increased to 500. We’re trying to get as much opportunity for the general public as possible, but there are many people that get tickets. The NCAA takes 1,500-2,000. We accommodate all Division I athletic directors, conference commissioners, affiliate groups, USA Hockey, and NCAA corporate sponsors.
“In addition to the 2000 tickets given to the teams, the local organizing committee gets tickets as well as a reward for all the hard work they’ve done. But we want to accommodate as many fans as possible … and that is why the larger facilities help.”