September 26, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bowling Green Keeps Options Open, Talking to Others

CHN Staff Report

Bowling Green has asked for, and received, a two-week extension from the WCHA for giving a response to the conference's invitation to join. The invitation now expires Oct. 7.

Bowling Green is the last CCHA school, other than Notre Dame, without a commitment to a conference in 2013-14. That's the season the Big Ten and new NCHC will form, leaving a number of schools behind. The remaining CCHA schools merged with the remaining WCHA schools. Bowling Green was invited to be among them, but has yet to accept.

Bowling Green was known to have preferred an alliance with four Atlantic Hockey schools — Niagara, Mercyhurst, Canisius and Robert Morris — but when Lake Superior and Alaska preferred the WCHA, it made Bowling Green's desires more difficult. If Bowling Green and Ferris State combined with the four AHA schools, it would leave a precarious six-team mix. Seeing the writing on the wall, BGSU and Ferris State courted the WCHA instead, but only Ferris officially accepted the invitation, while BGSU has not.

According to sources, Bowling Green athletic director Greg Christopher is trying to resurrect the possibility of joining forces with those AHA schools — who want to play in a conference that allows 18 scholarships, the maximum allowed by the NCAA, instead of the 12 currently allowed by Atlantic Hockey. But with a six-team minimum for a conference to receive an automatic bid, playing with less than that is considered undesirable, and playing with exactly six — or even seven — is risky.

According to Minnesota-Duluth broadcaster Bruce Ciskie, who runs the Ciskie Blog, the five schools were also looping University at Buffalo into the mix. UB doesn't currently have a varsity program, but has a club program.

Buffalo actually played two seasons in the CCHA's Division II level — with Western Michigan and Lake Forest — from 1973-75. It's particularly interesting that Buffalo is a member of the Mid-American Conference, along with Bowling Green, Miami and Western Michigan, in all other sports.

According to the Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, a source indicated that Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs — a Buffalo graduate and previous donor — may be willing to fund all, or part, of starting a new hockey program, similar to what Terry Pegula did for Penn State. In fact, Pegula, who then bought the Buffalo Sabres, has been planning to build a new practice facility for his NHL team that would serve as a new home rink for Canisius, and one that could be shared by UB. Canisius currently plays home games at the rink of Division III Buffalo State.

Alabama-Huntsville, on the verge of extinction as the nation's lone independent, could conceivably fit best into this new league, if it ever comes off, compared to any of the other options. But, according to Ciskie, they haven't been included yet.

There remains another possibility, that all of these schools go into the WCHA, and the WCHA splits into two divisions. The current Atlantic Hockey schools have expressed reluctance, however, to be in a conference that includes Alaska and/or Huntsville.

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