ECAC to Take Quinnipiac?

The ECAC appears to have all but finalized a decision regarding the league’s membership.

USCHO has confirmed that Quinnipiac has been recommended for admission, and will get the spot, pending imminent approval by the ECAC’s Policy Committee. However, according to sources, Holy Cross, despite some support among ECAC ADs, is out of contention because it will not commit the same kind of financial aid packages to its women’s program as it does to the men’s.

That contradicts an earlier report in the New Haven Register, which indicated that Holy Cross has been tenatively admitted pending a sufficient upgrade to its women’s program. According to sources, Holy Cross is not willing at this time to commit the same kind of resources to its women’s program as the men’s.

The ECAC has been contemplating what to do, if anything, since Vermont announced earlier this year its intention to leave the league for Hockey East in the fall of 2005. The decision had been down to Holy Cross and Quinnipiac.

“Nothing beats a good rumor,” Quinnipiac athletic director Jack McDonald told USCHO. “There seems to be some fact that other [schools] have been told they’re out of it.”

Previously, Niagara and Mercyhurst announced they were told they were out of the running. Sources also confirmed that Sacred Heart was out of the running as well. ECAC officials made on-site visits to those three schools, plus Quinnipiac and Holy Cross, last month.

The Register said all five schools were already informed of their fate last Friday. But McDonald denied that he has any information about the ECAC’s decision.

The concern all along was how any changes in the ECAC would affect the other conferences. If Atlantic Hockey, of which Quinnipiac and Holy Cross are a part, loses one or two top teams, would it survive? Likewise for the CHA, which houses Niagara and needs to maintain its current six-school membership for NCAA tournament automatic bid purposes. Quinnipiac’s women’s team is slated to play in the CHA this coming fall.

A 12-team ECAC would maintain the status quo. A 13-team league with 24 league games would help the non-Ivy schools fill more dates, but hamper the Ivy schools, which are limited to just 29 overall games per season.

“To me, personally, college hockey is going through a significant redefinition of itself,” said McDonald. “If things happen with membership, you have to look at it as good.

“There are still a lot of good things going on [for Atlantic Hockey], with schools like Robert Morris, Navy and St. Anselm’s [all considering membership]. I remember how disappointed I was when the ECAC broke up 20 years ago, but college hockey is better because of it.”

Quinnipiac’s bid to the ECAC was reportedly strengthened by the school’s commitment to build a new arena slated to open during the 2006-07 season. The college hockey rumor mill has been flooded by comments that the arena won’t open on time or may not receive enough funding to be built.

That, though, is something that McDonald strongly denies.

“We’re planning to start cutting some trees in September,” McDonald said, noting that there is still some permitting necessary to begin construction. “We’ve been planning this building for five years. Our plans were well in place before [the ECAC] candidacy.

“I know people are taking shots at us that the building isn’t going up tomorrow, but I can assure everyone this building will happen.”

McDonald did not know what the ECAC’s timeline is for making the official announcement, but should Quinnipiac ultimately be admitted, it would mark the first time that Quinnipiac and current ECAC member Yale would compete in men’s hockey. The two schools are just a handful of miles away from one another in Hamden, Conn., and New Haven, Conn., respectively.