Every other week in USCHO Extra, longtime staffer Mike Volonnino brings you “On The Flip Side,” his take on the issues, both serious and silly, confronting college hockey.
In the middle of Tyler Hirsch going down for the year, the renewal of Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, and the WCHA not occupying every position in the USCHO.com/CSTV Top 20, you may not have noticed that the CHA will drop to five teams next year.
Air Force will join Atlantic Hockey, creating the first major roadblock to college hockey’s expansion over the past few years. Without a sixth team, the CHA would lose its automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Commissioner R.H. “Bob” Peters (which is not as bad as I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby) had been aggressively recruiting Kennesaw State to join the D-I ranks. It seemed like the right time for Kennesaw to make the move. After all, with the White Sox removing the curse of the Black Sox, nobody will have to talk about former MLB commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ lifetime ban of Shoeless Joe anymore. This opened the door for someone/something else named Kennesaw to enter the spotlight.
Alas, the CHA couldn’t come up with the right incentive package to lure the Fighting Owls — hey, at least it’s a real mascot, unlike the Crimson or the Big Green. So, Peters has to go back to the drawing board in order to safeguard his conference’s spot in the NCAA tournament. More importantly, he has to guarantee the annual “screwing” of some team out West that will inevitably whine that Niagara is in the Dance, and it is not.
This is essentially a recruitment question. In college, when you cannot sell your program on its history, tradition, and launching pad to the pros, then you lure blue-chippers the old-fashioned way: bribe them. Peters has the right idea — fork up some cash to defray start-up costs — but we would like to suggest that if he is going to preserve his automatic bid, then he has to get a little more creative. So here are some recruitment ideas, some general, others specific:
• Call up Mama Serratore. This whole situation could be avoided if Air Force reconsiders. This requires a higher power in the Serratore family to guarantee that the Falcons, coached by Frank Serratore, don’t leave Tom Serratore’s Bemidji State without an automatic bid. A few dirty looks at Thanksgiving and some well-placed whacks with the pocketbook ought to do the trick.
• Move Alabama-Huntsville to Orlando. The CHA already has the only Southern hockey team, a huge selling point. It’s like Spring Break in the middle of Winter. But who wants to go to Alabama? Since moving an entire college might be difficult, arrange for UAH’s home games to be played in the Magic Kingdom. Nobody can resist the power of Disney. Besides, the last team to get dubbed a “Mickey Mouse Organization” has won three Stanley Cups over the past decade.
• Free Sirius Satellite Radio. Howard Stern is coming in January. Do you really want to miss it?
• A part for the lucky school’s athletic director in the next James Bond movie. By selecting a blond Bond in Daniel Craig, the series clearly holds nothing sacred anymore. As a bonus, maybe the movie can update the awful hockey sequence from “For Your Eyes Only.”
• Enforce the no-hazing policy. Last year the CHA lured Robert Morris to replace Findlay, and the Colonials were rewarded with the Elephant Walk, Power Hours, and an 8-21-4 record. Okay, we’re kidding about everything except the eight wins. So guarantee the new guys at least 10 victories, or better yet …
• Guarantee an automatic bid. With only six teams, the law of averages states that the new team should win it every so often. Expedite the process. Tell the other team’s Ogilves to “take one for the league.” This approach could even entice a once-mighty program like Lake Superior State to jump ship.
• Clone Joe Paterno. Penn State has been on the cusp of turning Division I for years. Peters should right now direct all of his school’s science departments to focus entirely on human cloning, ethics be damned. The Nittany Lions would not only join the CHA, but would browbeat other programs to come with them in exchange for a lifetime supply of St. Joes.
• Wait for a natural disaster to strike, then pounce. San Antonio has shown no shame in stealing the New Orleans Saints away in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Why should the CHA?
It really is in the best interests of college hockey to have six competitive conferences. Even if the CHA presently does not match the “Big Four,” it has made great strides over the years and scored some memorable upsets. Peters has a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to ensure the prosperity of his league.
Although, if he fails, think of how much fun we could have in a CHA dispersal draft. But that is a topic for another column.