March 5, 2008 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Not So Fast ... Or, How to Mess With Brackets Without Really Trying

New 'Rule' That Would Exclude Minnesota-Duluth, is a Mirage Says Committee Chair

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

The Internet was abuzz Tuesday as word began to spread that the latest revision to the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championships Handbook contained a new provision.

Now, there have been a lot of changes, tweaks, etc... to the selection criteria and process over the years, and we've religiously followed them all. But this one was new to us.

Tipped off by CHN reporters Brett Gobe and Ron Ayers, it seems that the handbook contained the following new line: "To be considered during the at-large selection process, a team must have an overall won-lost record of .500 or better."

Notwithstanding the merits and wisdom of such an idea, this was brand new to men's ice hockey. And this would be particularly relevant this year.

There are numerous teams sitting on the bubble who are teetering around the .500 mark, but thanks to outstanding strengths of schedule, are on the verge of making the NCAA tournament nonetheless. Most prominently is Minnesota-Duluth, currently tied for 13th in the Pairwise with a 12-14-6 record.

Others around there are Minnesota (14-13-9) — which happens to be the school that employs committee chair Joel Maturi, the school's athletic director — Boston University (15-15-4), Wisconsin (15-14-7), and Providence (14-13-5), home to another committee member, AD Bob Driscoll.

The question ... would the committee disregard the raw numbers, and indeed implement this supposed new rule and throw out the bid of Minnesota-Duluth?

More than likely, this will shake itself out in the conference tournament playoffs, and not be a factor. Despite the incredible strength of schedule disparity this year that currently plants eight WCHA teams in the tournament, it's not likely to wind up that way in the end.

But here's the rub ... the rule doesn't really exist.

As word spread around the Internet on Tuesday, we called the actual chair of the committee, Joel Maturi. He said he hadn't heard of this provision. Taken somewhat aback, we asked where it came from, and he promised to check on it and get back to us.

We were waiting until Maturi's final confirmation until we ran this story, but given the prominence this supposed "fact" had achieved, it seemed now was the time to get this out there.

Though still waiting for Maturi's final word, as of Tuesday night, Maturi told CHN that it appears that wording is "boilerplate" NCAA language, and was inserted into the February 2008 revision of the handbook by mistake (UPDATE: This mistake has now been confirmed by Marc Bedics at the NCAA, who said that an updated handbook, eliminating the sentence in question, will be distributed shortly). Odd that this happened, and that it wasn't in the 2007 handbook, but you have to assume the committee chair would've known had this rule passed.

We'll update the story as more information comes in Wednesday from the NCAA and Maturi.

Again, there may be merits to such a rule. Most other NCAA sports have such a thing. But at this time, there is no such rule for NCAA men's ice hockey. And as it stands right now, Minnesota-Duluth would make the NCAA tournament — though again, that's likely to change anyway as the conference tournaments get in gear, making this, perhaps, much ado about nothing.

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