WCHA 'Remainders' to Meet This Week; WMU Still in Mix for New League
CHN Staff Report
With six schools — including five from the current WCHA — set to formally introduce their new conference affiliation Wednesday in Colorado Springs, the five "Remainders" from the WCHA will meet this week in Minnesota to discuss the future.
Of the current 12 WCHA teams, two — Minnesota and Wisconsin — will join the Big Ten in 2013-14, while North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College, Minnesota-Duluth and Nebraska-Omaha will join the new conference with Miami that same year.
That leaves Alaska-Anchorage, St. Cloud State, Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech. Six schools are necessary in one conference in order to maintain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile, Western Michigan has announced its intention to continue pushing for acceptance into the new league. Continuing a push to renew its commitment to hockey, WMU created an initiative called "Why Western" (whywestern.com). Western Michigan is currently one of seven "Remainders" in the CCHA, a group that — as of this moment — includes Notre Dame.
Notre Dame is mulling whether to accept a bid to join the new conference, or join Hockey East. If it joins the new conference, that would make seven, and leave officials from the new conference pushing for an eighth team. That could improve the chances for Western Michigan or, perhaps, Bowling Green.
Western Michigan's situation became more precarious with the sudden departure of coach Jeff Blashill, College Hockey News' co-Coach of the Year last season. He left after just one year to join the Detroit Red Wings. But the school has reiterated its commitment to the program, and says it intends to continue its push into the elite.
According to a statement released by WMU on Sunday, "Bronco Nation should know that WMU's Athletic Department is pleased with the direction these conversations are headed and fully expect to make an announcement before the start of the next academic year, as to our future conference plans for our hockey program."
While those machinations continue, the five WCHA "Remainders" will meet in Minnesota, amid some very hard feelings. According to the Anchorage Daily News, UAA athletic director Steve Cobb said that he blames "everybody for being less than honest with their own league members. ... I'm not offended at all they want to start a conference. I'm very offended at the way it was handled. ... It's going to be very tense and very uncomfortable."
St. Cloud State is another jilted school that hopes to take a leadership role among the remnants of the WCHA. Last week, the St. Cloud Times quoted school president Earl Potter as saying that, even if invited, St. Cloud State wouldn't be in position to participate in a new league financially.
"We expected to be in conversations about being in a new league," Potter told the paper. "But as we looked at it ... we intended to say no."
St. Cloud State has hired former North Dakota coach and USHL commissioner Gino Gasparini as a special athletics advisor to the president.
Officials at Bemidji State, Minnesota State and Michigan Tech have all made similar proclamations of their intentions to stay in the WCHA and make it as strong as possible with what's left. Bemidji State just recently joined the league, and won a playoff series last season over Nebraska-Omaha. Tech has a new head coach in alumnus Mel Pearson, and gave him a contract worth over $200,000 annually.