Into The Matrix

ECAC administrators met Tuesday via conference call to hold final discussions on which school, if any, may join the league to replace Vermont in 2005-06.

Who should the ECAC pick to join its league? One team, two teams, maybe more?

First of all, the ECAC should not go over 12 teams. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being that the Ivy Schools only have 29 games to play and to take away two games from them for league play would only leave five non-conference games for them. So until the Ivy League gives them more games, 22 is going to be the cap on league games.

That of course means one team, and no more than one team, could be added.

Now let’s narrow the list down of the five schools that have applied and received site visits from the ECAC: Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Niagara, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart.

What factors are involved in the decision? In no particular order:

• facility size, locker rooms, access, etc.
• program success
• academic admission for all athletes, not just student-athletes
• commitment to a Division I program in all sports
• future plans for the athletic department
• media market
• support staff

The facility is one of the most important.

Holy Cross’ Hart Recreation Center’s capacity is 1,600, Mercyhurst Ice Center’s capacity is 1,500, Niagara’s Dwyer Arena is 2,000, Quinnipiac’s Northford Ice Pavilion is 1,000 and Sacred Heart’s Milford Pavilion is 1,000.

There are plans for Dwyer Arena to be improved, not necessarily in capacity, but in quality of seating, entertainment areas and the press box. Meanwhile, Quinnipiac has plans for a brand new arena that will seat 2,500 and is expected to be completed in January of 2007. Funds are currently being raised for that project.

Having not been in the locker rooms of any of these facilities, certain assumptions must be made here. Milford Pavilion and Northford Ice Pavilion are both town facilities, meaning that there is not a lot of control over the locker rooms.

There are rumblings that people were less than impressed with the women’s locker room at Hart. Niagara and Mercyhurst have locker room facilities for both men and women.

As for the program’s themselves, it’s easy to see that Niagara has had the most success of all five. The only team of the five to win a game in the men’s NCAA Tournament, the Purple Eagles also have the most non-conference wins against the Big Four conferences. After that Mercyhurst, Quinnipiac and Holy Cross have all made the NCAA Tournament, Sacred Heart has not.

On the women’s side, the Purple Eagles also have been the most successful. They have made the women’s Frozen Four and have been very successful. Mercyhurst has done well, winning the last two CHA titles. Quinnipiac has had little success at the Division I level thus far, Sacred Heart even less. Holy Cross continues to play in a Division III league.

Academic admissions:

Using some typical college ranking data — namely Average SAT, High School GPA, Top 10% of class, Top 50% of class and percentage of applicants accepted — we can rank the schools. All of this data comes from the most recent Princeton Review.

School          SAT   HS GPA    10%   50%   AppAcc
Holy Cross 1270 NA 68 99 42
Mercyhurst 1081 3.2 18 78 77
Niagara 1043 3.0 14 73 80
Quinnipiac 1105 3.4 21 89 62
Sacred Heart 1053 3.3 13 81 68

Commitment to a Division I program:

Holy Cross, Niagara, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart are Division I across the board, except for Holy Cross’ women’s program. Mercyhurst plays at the Division II level.

There are other intangibles that go along with this factor, such as facility size, locker rooms, support staff, etc. So this is a hard one to judge.

How about future plans for the athletic department? The only large thing that looms is Quinnipiac’s plans for a new arena for both hockey and basketball.

Media markets is an interesting factor. Holy Cross would be considered the Boston market, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart would be the Hartford market, with connection to New York and Boston. Niagara is the Buffalo market and southern Ontario. Mercyhurst is really too far away from a lot of places.

Support staff … that’s too tough for us to judge.

Let’s put together a matrix, as all good business students, researchers, engineers, etc… are forced to do all the time.

Ranking them from 1-5 in each category:

Facilities: Niagara, Mercyhurst, Holy Cross, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart

Program Success: Niagara, Mercyhurst, Quinnipiac, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart

Academics: Holy Cross, Quinnipiac, Mercyhurst, Sacred Heart, Niagara

Division I: Niagara, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart (Tie), Holy Cross, Mercyhurst

Future Plans: Quinnipiac, Niagara, Mercyhurst, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart

Media Market: Holy Cross, Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart (Tie), Niagara, Mercyhurst

Support Staff: Five-way tie

Adding up the points:

Holy Cross     22
Mercyhurst 19
Niagara 24
Quinnipiac 24.5
Sacred Heart 15.5

We have ourselves a real close race. But in the end it comes down to Niagara and Quinnipiac, with Quinnipiac in a slight lead.

So, the matrix says that the ECAC picks one team and that one team is Quinnipiac.

Now there is one factor here which can change the whole matrix, and that is Quinnipiac’s future plans for an arena. It wouldn’t have scored a five if there were not plans to build the arena. Is the arena going to be built? All signs indicate that it will, but what if it doesn’t?

That’s where there needs to be a condition placed on the pick.

The arena is to be built and completed, ready for occupancy in January of 2007. That would be in the second year of competition within the ECAC for Quinnipiac.

Therefore my proposal would be that Quinnipiac be admitted to the ECAC for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons on a probationary period. If that arena is built by the date of January 2007, then Quinnipiac will be admitted as a full-member of the ECAC. Should that arena not be built by then, Quinnipiac would not be made a full-time member and the ECAC will look for another member for the 2007-2008 season.