Northern Michigan board votes to seek spot in WCHA

Northern Michigan’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a proposal for the school’s hockey team to pursue a spot in the WCHA.

The vote, as reported by Mining Journal reporter Matt Wellens via Twitter, comes a day ahead of a WCHA meeting in St. Paul, Minn., where adding an additional member is expected to be considered.

The WCHA is losing seven teams — two to the Big Ten, five to the National Collegiate Hockey Conference — in the 2013-14 season, which would leave it with five members. Six teams are needed for a conference to maintain an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Northern Michigan joined the CCHA in 1977 but left for the WCHA along with Upper Peninsula rival Michigan Tech in 1984. The Wildcats moved back to the CCHA in 1997.

It would be the fifth school to leave the 11-team CCHA in 2013, joining three schools going to the Big Ten (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State) and one to the NCHC (Miami). Notre Dame and Western Michigan also could be exiting the conference at the same time.

The WCHA’s lineup for 2013-14 as it stands now includes Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State.

“I felt the schools that will be in the WCHA in 2013-14 share many similarities with Northern,” school president Les Wong said in a statement. “We all have similar locations with hometowns that passionately support their hockey programs. We also all offer similar academic offerings and have similar student bodies. We all have strong NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs but a Division I hockey program. Having our hockey team travel west also complements our recruiting footprint for not just athletics, but the university as a whole.”

Said interim athletic director Steve Reed: “We share many natural rivalries with the new WCHA programs and the league offers geographical balance for us. With the changing landscape in college hockey in 2013-14, it is important for us to consider all options and choose the one we feel works best for NMU hockey at this time.”