Monday, March 21, 2011

It's official: Big 10 hockey is coming (updated)

No surprise out of Big Ten headquarters Monday ...

The Big Ten announced Monday that men's hockey will be recommended as an official conference sport beginning with the 2013-14 season. Here is the press release: 
Park Ridge, Ill. - The directors of athletics of Big Ten institutions which sponsor men's ice hockey unanimously announce their intention to recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June the establishment of men's ice hockey as an official conference sport for the 2013-14 academic year with participation by Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The recommendation includes both the establishment of the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in March of 2014, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20-game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools four times (two home games and two away games). In addition, the Big Ten's men's ice hockey programs will continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of non-conference competition with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
In September of 2010, Penn State announced the establishment of men's and women's ice hockey programs set to begin competition in the 2012-13 academic year, giving the Big Ten six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.
Since Penn State's announcement, the conference has researched and investigated the establishment of men's ice hockey as a conference sport. The conference has sought input and communicated both internally with conference chancellors, presidents, administrators and coaches, and externally with members of the hockey community, including the CCHA and WCHA.
So two more WCHA seasons with Minnesota and Wisconsin in the fold. I'll be curious to see how those schools will "continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of nonconference competition" with Minnesota State. I could see the Mavericks playing games in Minneapolis and Madison, but will the Gophers and Badgers ever come to Mankato again after 2012-13?

UPDATE: Minnesota State athletic director Kevin Buisman said he is optimistic that a "fair and balanced scheduling arrangement" can be made involving Minnesota and Wisconsin and their former conference. The Big Ten teams will play 20 conference games, including 10 at home, and will have to find 14 nonconference games. As many as 10 of those non-league games likely will be home games, according to this story, for budgetary reasons. That doesn't leave a lot of games for the Gophers to go barnstorming the the state of Minnesota.

"There are some concerns about not having those kinds of programs coming into your building," Buisman said. "But we're still working on a possible scheduling arrangement with those schools. I'm optimistic that our schedule would not be tremendously different than it is now."

Buisman said WCHA ADs have had good talks about the future of the conference ever since Penn State's announcement in September.

One question is: What will happen to the WCHA and the Final Five after that year? Many believe that the Final Five will still take place at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. This year was a good example of what that might look like, as Minnesota and Wisconsin failed to make it to championship weekend. Only one Big Ten team is in the national tournament, which begins this week, and that's Michigan.

See Monday's WCHA's release here.
The University of Minnesota released statements here.
Sunday's Star Tribune story on the WCHA/Big Ten here.

1 comment:

JWGreen said...

While the departure will no doubt harm the WCHA at least a little, we'll fare much better than the CCHA will.