MAAC, CHA Look to Expand

Beset by the loss of two teams this season, the MAAC is looking to re-expand, with its eyes set on Rhode Island, Navy and Robert Morris.

All three have expressed heavy interest in joining the MAAC. Now, for the first time, it appears Robert Morris is closer than ever to joining.

According to published reports, Robert Morris, a school of 4,800 students near Pittsburgh, is looking to purchase the 1,200-seat arena of a local junior hockey team, with the purpose of beginning a Division I men’s hockey program in 2004-05.

The MAAC currently has nine teams, after Fairfield and Iona dropped their programs following the end of this past season.

Meanwhile, the CHA is looking beyond its six teams, and plans to hold serious expansion talks at the upcoming coach’s convention in Naples, Fla.

CHA commissioner Bob Peters said the league was working on the exact criteria for adding a new member during the recent CHA tournament, and at the Frozen Four.

“All of the conferences have a moratorium [on expansion] except the MAAC and the CHA,” Peters said. “Our basic philosophy or attitude is, if somebody’s looking for a home, we want to promote hockey.

“We’re not really stalling on it, we’re working our way through the criteria. It starts with the Structure Committee; they put it all together.”

According to sources, College Hockey America was mulling over a bid by MAAC member Quinnipiac to join its ranks, but Quinnipiac withdrew from consideration.

“Our attitude is that we’re one of the few that can take additional teams, and we’re open to it,” Peters said. “At the current time we don’t have what you call an emergency, but we’re looking at the whole picture.

“We probably want increments of two, but not necessarily. Would we best fit at 8 or 10 or even 12? The consensus of the group is, the immediate goal is to try to get to eight, and not entertain more than 12.”

Peters said the long-term aim of all the six Division I conference commissioners is to encourage current successful club programs — such as Penn State, Iowa State and Arizona State — to move up to varsity level. He added that he’s not concerned about over-expansion.

“In retrospect, there was some concern when the old six-team NHL when to 12 then 18,” Peters said. “I guess I’m not concerned about that because of the great popularity and acceptance of the NHL.”