Committee: Attendance, Not Travel Costs, Was Reason for Switches
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
NCAA men's ice hockey committee chair Bill Bellerose, the assistant athletic director at Holy Cross, said today that "creating a good experience" for student athletes was the No. 1 factor in rotating the No. 3 seeds around in the NCAA Tournament brackets.
In other words, boosting the attendance at the four regional sites was a key consideration of the committee, not travel costs and reducing flights.
The other option would have been for the committee to leave things alone. Going by the straight 1-16 Pairwise, No. 12 Michigan was matched with No. 5 North Dakota in the Northeast (Worcester, Mass.), while No. 9 Yale was matched with No. 8 Bemidji State in the Midwest (Fort Wayne, Ind.).
Per the committee's guidelines, it is allowed to rotate teams with "seed bands." In other words, No. 3 seeds can be shifted around with each other, but a 3 seed can't become a 2 seed.
In recent years, the commitee has typically only done this to avoid first-round intra-conference matchups, and not focused as much on attendance factors. But this year, attendance was very much a factor, clearly.
"I know that's the bone contention," Bellerose said. "When you looked at the student athlete experience and playoff atmosphere, we had some major concerns about Fort Wayne.
"There were so many different variables we looked at, this is what we came down to."
A "lesser" switch was also made when No. 11 New Hampshire was flip-flopped with No. 10 Northern Michigan, sending UNH to Albany, much closer to its home base.
"It was not really (travel costs)," Bellerose said. "As it turned out, it helped (that), but when you look at the whole package, it was a) student-athlete experience, b) playoff atmosphere, and c) cost."