Committee: All Systems Go
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
It's all systems go for the committee this season.
Current NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Committee Chair, Bill Bellerose, said the process for selecting and seeding teams will be the same as recent years. The ice hockey coaches have been adament about keeping the current system, which places emphasis on a wholly objective process, free of human decision-making.
"I think the membership has been clear in terms of how to make selections," said Bellerose, who is also the assistant athletic director at Holy Cross. "I don't think there's any wrinkle in that regard.
"As far as regionals, we're going to a new venue out in Fort Wayne. The others have all hosted before, so we know what to expect. I'm sure the regionals will go off without a problem."
One thing everyone was keeping an eye was whether the NCAA would mandate "regionalization" in some form or another. It was a hot topic last year, and it caused concern that it would lead to some bad brackets. Then the issue was tabled for at least a year.
As of now, according to Bellrose, that issue was not revisited, and is still officially tabled. That means the committee will not have any regionalization mandates or restrictions placed on them whatsoever.
"Maybe when we go to sit down [and seed the teams], they'll say, 'Read this,' but I doubt it," Bellerose said. "I think there was too much — I don't want to say controversy — but too many problems in doing [regionalization]. When you do that, how much are you going to save really? So as far as I know, it's the same thing."
The Frozen Four, on the other hand, has had its challenges. It's being hosted in a football-sized stadium for the first time this year, the 60,000-plus-seat Ford Field in Detroit. As it became apparent that tickets would not sell out, the committee and Frozen Four organizers changed course mid-season, and altered the seating configuration. Now, the ice will be closer to the stands and played on one half of the field, with stands set up along the middle of the football field — effectively cutting off half the stadium, and reducing "capacity" to more like 36,000-plus.
"Ford Field has its challenges for the Frozen Four," Bellerose said. "But being on a couple of the operational calls, the people of Ford Field and Detroit have bent over backwards to make this a special event. I had my doubts going in, but after going to the on site visit, and meeting with Ford Field people and the Detroit people and [CCHA commissioner] Tom Anastos, who's done an incredible job, I felt better. ... I'm looking forward to it."
In the longer term, the committee will have to look towards another possible snafu in 2012, when the Frozen Four is set to be hosted by Tampa Bay. Last year, the new ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning — different than the group that originally was part of the NCAA Frozen Four bid — dropped support for the in-season tournament that Notre Dame had been a part of, which led to it being moved to Chicago. This raised eyebrows.
The new ownership says it is still behind the Frozen Four, but there have also been rumors that this ownership group is on the verge of bankruptcy. Some have called for the NCAA to move the Frozen Four sooner than later — but that would be an unprecedented and drastic measure, and is not even being considered by the committee at this point.
"We were all very disappointed that the [in-season] college tournament was canceled," Bellerose said. "The people of Tampa have reiterated that they are behind that event 100 percent. The NCAA people have done a tremndous job and guaranteed that we'll sell out any NHL building that we go in. So I don't think that's going to be a problem. They've said right up front they're backing this thing.
"There's constant communication with the NCAA and the people of Tampa, and there has been no issues."
The NCAA and hockey committee deal with a combination of team officials, building officials, and local organizers.
On the slate for the committee is review of a new round of Frozen Four bids. Those will be formally discussed for the first time over the summer. By next year, the committee expects to award three new bids, for 2013-2015.
Bellerose's term as chair will end in the summer. He will be replaced by either Bob Driscoll (Providence/Hockey East) or Sean Frazier (Wisconsin/WCHA). Other members including Guy Gadowsky (Princeton/ECAC) and Tom Nevala (Notre Dame/CCHA), each in their first year on the committee. Dave Burkholder (Niagara) is the CHA representative, but that will disappear next year as that conference disbands. Atlantic Hockey will need a new representative.