Northern's Board Approves Shift to WCHA
CHN Staff Report
MARQUETTE, Mich. Northern Michigan University's Board of Trustees voted Wednesday to endorsed the administration's recommendation that the school's hockey program move to the WCHA, beginning in 2013-14.
NMU is currently in the CCHA, but will be affected by the large shakeup currently taking place throughout college hockey.
Membership in the WCHA would require a formal invitation and vote by that league's institutions, which has not yet taken place. This is highly expected to be approved, however, and soon, because the WCHA will be left with only five teams as of 2013-14 if no other changes take place.
This summer's announcement of two new college hockey leagues — the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conferences — will drastically change both the CCHA and the WCHA in 2013-14. The 11-team CCHA will possibly lose five teams (Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame) while the 12-team WCHA will lose seven teams (Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Wisconsin).
With the shakeup, NMU President Les Wong said he asked Wildcat intercollegiate athletics staff and the hockey coaches to consider the benefits of membership in each league, especially since NMU hockey has been a member of both at some point in its history — in the WCHA from 1984-97 and in the CCHA from 1977-78 until 1983-84 and again beginning with the 1997-98 season. As a WCHA member, NMU won the 1991 regular season conference title and three league tournament titles (1989, '91 and '92). The Wildcats were a WCHA member when they won the 1991 NCAA Championship.
"I felt the schools that will be in the WCHA in 2013-14 share many similarities with Northern," said Wong. "We all have similar locations with hometowns that passionately support their hockey programs. We also all offer similar academic offerings and have similar student bodies. We all have strong NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs but a Division I hockey program. Having our hockey team travel west also compliments our recruiting footprint for not just athletics, but the university as a whole."
Members of the WCHA moving forward in 2013-14 will be Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State. Members of the CCHA moving forward are Alaska-Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan.
"We share many natural rivalries with the new WCHA programs and the league offers geographical balance for us," interim athletic director Steve Reed told the board. "With the changing landscape in college hockey in 2013-14, it is important for us to consider all options and choose the one we feel works best for NMU hockey at this time."