Minnesota State looking to join NCHC; WCHA commish Robertson ‘deeply disappointed’

Minnesota State announced Wednesday that it has applied for admission in the NCHC.

School president Richard Davenport said in a statement that the school has a strong relationship with the WCHA, which it joined in 1999, but needs to be proactive in seeking what’s best for the university.

Davenport said the school believes “that now is the right time to consider all conference affiliation options for our men’s hockey program.”

There was no immediate timeline on when the school would get an answer from the NCHC after what Davenport said was a preliminary step in exploring the school’s future conference affiliation.

WCHA men’s commissioner Bill Robertson responded with a statement:

“I am aware of the current exploration process being undertaken by Minnesota State University, Mankato in regards to conference affiliation. I am deeply disappointed in Minnesota State’s decision to formally apply for membership with another conference; however, I respect and understand the need for MSU President Dr. Richard Davenport and Athletic Director Kevin Buisman to examine options pertaining to their men’s hockey program. I am appreciative to Dr. Davenport for his openness and transparency, and will continue to maintain an open and collaborative dialogue throughout this process.

There is much to be proud of in the men’s WCHA. Beginning with the 2013-14 season, four of the top-15 winningest teams in Division I hockey play in the WCHA – the highest representation of any single conference among the nation’s upper 25 percent of programs. Our past two Defensive Players of the Year made their mark in the National Hockey League this past season, one making the NHL All-Rookie team and the other debuting one week after his collegiate finale. The academic and community-driven accomplishments of our student-athletes continue to amaze and inspire.

I firmly believe that a framework has been created over the last two years that will ensure the WCHA Men’s League remains a premier conference on the ice for years to come, while continuing to provide an exemplary student-athlete experience. This foundation will only grow stronger with the debut of our on-campus postseason format in 2017 and the continued success of each of our 10 programs, including Minnesota State. The WCHA has a valued relationship with Minnesota State University, and I want MSU to be a part of the long-term future and shared excellence of our Men’s League. The League Office will continue to work toward that end.”

NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton later issued a statement:

“Dating back to the conference’s inception, the collective strength of our current membership has always been and will continue to be a priority for the NCHC. The NCHC responded to an inquiry we received from Minnesota State, Mankato regarding conference affiliation. However, and as stated many times before, our collective discussion on the topic of expansion is grounded in how we can maximize the value of our current member institutions. This manner of assessing any membership inquiry will continue to be our focus into the future, regardless of the opportunity presented. We remain guided by strengthening the NCHC and helping to grow the game of college hockey.”