Paula's picks plus, Nov. 15, 2011: Notre Dame at Western Michigan, alleged larceny, and the future of college hockey

Okay, so the headline is a little dramatic. How else was I going to get you to read a Tuesday blog entry? There’s a pick at the end for the Western Michigan-Notre Dame game. I’m bound to be wrong. I have a couple of other things on my mind, too.

Football, hockey and the future

Last week was one the sporting world would rather never repeat. As news of the Penn State scandal broke and then unfolded, I was as shocked as the rest of the world at the allegations, heart broken for the victims and their families and disgusted by the cover-up.
Being someone who cares just a little about college hockey too, though, I wondered how this would affect the future of men’s and women’s hockey at PSU. Check out Todd Milewski’s note about it from Thursday. The statement issued by the Pegula family is both realistic and reassuring.
We don’t like to think about the relationship between football and hockey, but for many programs, the latter is dependent upon the former. Sure, we’re lucky to have some programs that are the centerpiece of their schools’ little universes, but football and its revenue still drives collegiate sports across the country. At the start of the season, I had an interesting chat with Jeff Jackson — and Notre Dame’s head coach is so much smarter than I am — in which he made an offhand comment about the malleability of the college hockey conferences. We were talking hockey, but Jackson quickly pointed out that what happens with the changing conference loyalties among big football programs can affect the sport we love the most. It was the week that Syracuse University jumped from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, a big gamble that may not work out for SU.
And if that gamble doesn’t work out for SU — by “work out” I mean, “bring in big, giant, huge revenue” — there’s one more realistically potential Division I men’s ice hockey program that sits and waits.
Anyone who’s read me over any period of time knows that I’m no fan of big, corporate, collegiate sports, but let’s be real: If college hockey is to expand, it will do so at first with schools that have big football programs, schools that can more readily absorb the expense of starting a hockey program. Fairy godfathers — the single donors that make things like PSU hockey possible — are in short supply.

A little larceny, allegedly

Another incident much closer to the CCHA home may have gone unnoticed in the shadow of the big breaking news, but I find the smaller scandal in Marquette quite saddening. Five freshmen are facing midemeanor charges involving stolen bicycles on the Northern Michigan campus, including three who see regular ice time for the Wildcats.
In fact, those three — Jake Baker, Mitch Jones, Dylan Walchuk — played in NMU’s series against Ohio State last weekend. Walchuk had a goal.
It’ll be very interesting to see how the NMU student disciplinary process deals with all five, and how the athletic department will respond.

Western Michigan at Notre Dame

Why do we call every Tuesday and Thursday game a mid-week game, ignoring the reality of Wednesday as the actual mid-week point? These are the kinds of things that keep me awake at night.
The Broncos are hoping to break a three-game skid at home after having dropped two games to Michigan State in Lawson Arena Friday and Saturday. This little losing streak stings more than most, as these three games — dating back to the 5-2 loss in Yost Ice Arena the Saturday prior, Nov. 5 — are the Broncos’ only losses of the season. The sweep by MSU was the first that WMU has suffered at home since Jan. 2009 — and that stings, too. The Fighting Irish beat Alaska twice at home last weekend, with Billy Maday’s fourth goal of the season cementing the sweep at 4:18 in overtime Saturday. The Irish have a streak of their own, seven unbeaten (5-0-2). ND was 2-1-1 (and 1, if you count the shootout point) against WMU last season. 7:05 p.m. start. If this one were played in Lawson, I’d call it the other way. I may still be wrong. ND 3-2
This week’s column will feature the RedHawks and the Falcons, so look for that tomorrow. I’ll have picks on Friday along with an update on how I’m doing so far in that regard this season. (Hint: My record is lousy.) I’ll also be at Yost Ice Arena this Friday night. Now you know more about my life than my mother does.