The Latest: CCHA, WCHA to Meet Again ... and More
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
While the remaining CCHA teams wait for a decision from Notre Dame, conference representatives are slated to meet again with those from the WCHA, next Tuesday in Chicago.
Notre Dame was expected to give the CCHA an answer regarding its future during the CCHA's recent league meetings in Dearborn, Mich. But Notre Dame's assistant athletic director, Tom Nevala, informed the rest of the conference that it was not yet prepared to do so.
That said, it's no secret that Notre Dame will leave the CCHA for either Hockey East or the fledgling NCHC. Notre Dame is still doing due diligence about potential television contracts, and it is expected to go to the conference where it can best maximize such a deal.
But Notre Dame's holdup means that Western Michigan — still technically a CCHA member as well — is also in limbo.
Assuming those two leave, then as of 2013-14 — when a series of seismic changes to the college hockey landscape officially come to be — the CCHA will be left with only Alaska, Lake Superior State, Ferris State and Bowling Green. That's an unacceptably low number of teams, particularly because the NCAA minimum for receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament is six conference members.
A variety of possibilities are on the table to rectify the issue.
“I can’t say what’s going to happen. I know people have been trying to speculate on blogs,” Alaska athletic director Forrest Karr told the Daily News-Miner. “There’s still a huge number of possibilities. ... We sat there as a group for over two hours and we came up with so many different possibilities that can happen that there is no way to narrow it down at this point.”
The WCHA and CCHA also met three weeks ago, to discuss general possibilities of a merger. The WCHA will be left with six schools in 2013-14, including Northern Michigan, which already announced it's switching from the CCHA. A second meeting implies that the two parties could be discussing the possibility in more detail.
Karr told the Daily News-Miner that the schools will share financial information about themselves to each other, and even discuss possible scheduling models.
Another rumor had Lake Superior State possibly going with Alaska to the WCHA.
"There are a lot of possibilities still," Lake Superior athletic director Kris Dunbar said. "We are going forward and working with the CCHA to determine the best place going forward for Lake Superior. ... We are not in trouble at all. This could all be a positive in the long run."
One thing Dunbar wanted to put to rest was any rumor that Lake Superior State's future was on shaky ground.
"We are firmly committed to Division I hockey at Lake Superior State," Dunbar said, affirming that the school administration is strongly behind the program. "Losing revenue from (the Big Ten schools leaving the CCHA) can be offset in getting guarantees for going to their buildings, so it won't be a problem for us.
While the CCHA discusses merger ideas with the WCHA, it still is discussing an entirely different possibility — bringing in four Atlantic Hockey schools. Those schools, Robert Morris, Mercyhurst, Niagara and Canisius, have already had discussions with the CCHA and have expressed interest in playing in a league where they can award 18 scholarships, instead of the 12 they are currently limited to in Atlantic Hockey.
The CCHA has given the Atlantic schools a Sept. 30 deadline to make a decision on their preference, but that is contingent upon whether Alaska remains in the CCHA. WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod has been to Fairbanks to discuss the possibility of Alaska switching to the WCHA, which would open the door for the Atlantic schools to switch, and potentially create two seven-team conferences, and leave Atlantic Hockey with eight.
However, if Lake Superior leaves too, that would leave the CCHA with six schools, even if the four Atlantic schools join. The Atlantic schools are concerned that would leave a new-look CCHA in a precarious situation.