Commentary: Wheels In Motion ... Slightly
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
The news that the WCHA lifted its expansion moratorium — for a couple of months, at least — set the gears turning a little bit, if the wheels are not quite in motion just yet. And it set off a chain reaction of reaction, that opened up some interesting new avenues of exploration in the fight to save some of college hockey's esteemed programs.
To quickly recap, we all know that the four-team CHA is probably going to disband, with little hope of getting news teams or retaining an NCAA autobid after this season. With that, the four teams in it will scramble.
As we've written about extensively before, the two Eastern teams — Niagara and Robert Morris — will likely be OK. But Alabama-Huntsville and Bemidji State may have the scramble, and we never believed the wild speculation that Nebraska-Omaha would jump from the CCHA to WCHA, as Bemidji came with the package, and Huntsville filled the CCHA hole.
Not to mention, in and of itself, Bemidji has an uphill climb gaining membership to the WCHA.
Which is not to say it's impossible — particularly if a groundswell of sympathy continues to build over BSU's plight. That might help push BSU past the resistance it has felt. And certainly lifting the moratorium is a start — it basically allows Bemidji to apply, which they must do before the moratorium goes back into place at the end of March. Then BSU needs 75 percent approval of WCHA members.
And then ...
Now, as we said, those events set into motion some interesting reaction. And tops on that list was the comments by Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp yesterday before his team's game against Alaska-Fairbanks.
Kemp, thankfully, put to rest any idea that UNO has interest in moving to the WCHA — but he did say something more revealing: That the WCHA is the ones that approached, not just UNO, but also Northern Michigan about whether there was any interest in moving.
That is news.
WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod artfully deflected the idea that the conference commissioners got together to discuss some grand realignment scheme — as was suggested in a Denver Post article that originally began this UNO speculation. But he never said anything about the WCHA feeling out CCHA schools for interest.
And I don't blame the WCHA for doing so, but it points out something very interesting ... that the WCHA is, itself, laying the possible groundwork for Bemidji State's acceptance. After all, if the WCHA adds Bemidji, it would want to do so with another school in the mix.
Now, does the WCHA know something we don't about the likely results of an expansion vote, or are they simply preparing for the possibility of BSU getting accepted? Or, is the league office trying to help BSU's bid, by showing the WCHA member schools that it would be a package deal — thus keeping an even number of teams in the league, which would be a good selling point?
Of course, there is no reason whatsoever to think NMU is interested in this. It's merely interesting, and telling, that the WCHA was taking this kind of feeling-out pre-emptive step.