MEN'S HOCKEY: Six topics of discussion
Coaches and athletic directors should have plenty to talk about at their national and league meetings this week in Marco Island, Fla.
Here are six topics (three at National Collegiate Hockey Conference level, three at national level) that should be discussed:
1. NCHC MEETINGS: The exclusivity clause in the CBS Sports contract
CBS Sports is a good network for college hockey because its broadcasters are so good and so well prepared. It makes for good shows. But the exclusivity clause — which blocks NCHC games from being broadcast on other national networks — makes absolutely no sense and is damaging to the league. Without it, the league could triple the number of games it has on TV each season through Fox College Sports and possibly even the ESPN networks.
What other major sport is bound to an exclusivity agreement? I can’t think of any network that blocks games from national TV that it has no intention to televise. If CBS continues to block national games, I can’t imagine the NCHC continuing its relationship with the network beyond its current contract.
When this league was put together, we heard athletic directors talk all about exposure and moving the league forward in regards to television. There has only been one year — and there were bound to be growing pains — but if the league doesn’t address this issue, the athletic directors’ statements on that summer day in Colorado Springs back in 2011 ring hollow.
2. NCHC MEETINGS: The 24-game schedule
There has only been one season with the new college hockey alignment, so the sample size is probably too small to make any determinations about the success of the 24-game schedule at this point. Even so, it’s probably worth having some discussions about the 24-game schedule.
The NCHC opted to go with 24 instead of 28 (which would mean every team plays everyone both home and away). The reason is that with the large number of traditional powerhouses in the NCHC, members felt that the larger nonconference schedule could lend to more teams getting in the NCAAs.
Year 1, it backfired. The NCHC was average in out-of-conference play. Three teams (two No. 4 seeds and one No. 3 seed) ended up in the NCAAs, but two of them didn’t make it until the final day. Now, it could be an anomaly due to one bad year of nonconference play. Maybe next year the NCHC gets five teams in the NCAAs like it hoped when it decided to go with the 24-game schedule.
After the next couple of seasons, the league may have a clearer picture if the 24-game plan is doing any good. If it’s not, the league might as well go to 28 games and heat up the conference races a bit more.
3. NCHC MEETINGS: The playoff format
The league members will talk about the postseason playoff format of the league. The NCHC needs to worry about doomsday scenarios — one of which almost played out this season — that would hit the league hard financially.
I’m guessing members will also talk about the travel problems that occurred during the first round series. Several destinations in the NCHC aren’t the easiest to get to — especially on five days notice — so there were some interesting travel arrangements in the first round (Miami took a bus to St. Cloud).
4. NCAA MEETINGS: The tournament format
Ahh, the old regional debate. Should it be played at neutral sites, or as I like to say, “neutral” sites, or should it go back to campus sites?
The current setup of neutral sites has been problematic for attendance.
This should be one of the hottest topics. The NCAA only awarded regionals for two years in December, knowing that the coaching body could make a change here.
It will be a very difficult issue to gain a consensus on, but expect a lot of chatter.
5. NCAA MEETINGS: The Pairwise
The Committee changed the formula for the Pairwise this season. I was at the Big Ten and NCHC media days when the coaches found out about the change, and they didn’t have much to say because they didn’t have time to study it yet.
Now, we’ve seen it in action. It didn’t end up changing a whole lot, but I do think there will be discussion on whether they like the new formula or if they want to tweak it yet again.
6. NCAA MEETINGS: Rules changes
Every two years, the NCAA has the ability to change rules. This is a rules change year.
Usually, we know there are a couple of rules that are going to be addressed because of controversies during the season, but this year, I can’t think of any that are slam dunks.
I think college hockey has done a nice job at staying at the front of the curve on several issues, including the hybrid icing, which was eventually adopted by the NHL. College hockey would have presented an opportunity to review the offsides call on the Colorado Avalanche’s game-tying goal Saturday night.
Even so, I guarantee that we’ll see some rules changes. It will be another month or two before we know what they are.