Sources: UND will leave WCHA for new leagueUND will soon announce it is leaving the men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association for a new, startup conference in 2013-14, the Herald has learned.
By: Brad Elliott Schlossman, Grand Forks Herald
UND will soon announce it is leaving the men’s Western Collegiate Hockey Association for a new, startup conference in 2013-14, the Herald has learned from multiple sources.
An official press conference is expected Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colo.
At least five other teams will join UND in this league: Denver, Colorado College, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and Miami (Ohio).
Notre Dame and an eighth school — possibly Western Michigan — also could be added to this group by the end of the summer.
The new league does not have a name yet, nor has a conference playoff format been finalized.
When reached Thursday, UND athletic director Brian Faison declined comment.
The league will begin at the same time as the Big Ten Hockey Conference, significantly changing the landscape of the college hockey world in two years.
Both the WCHA and Central Collegiate Hockey Association will be left with five teams — not enough for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. They will likely have to combine under one of the league’s umbrellas, but it is unknown which one.
Contacted last week, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said no contingency plans had been discussed. CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch did not return a phone call.
The WCHA is the only hockey conference that UND has ever known. It joined the league as a charter member in 1951 and has stuck with it throughout (UND will continue membership in the league on the women’s side).
But just two years after it was announced that the league would grow to 12 teams — its largest size ever — it is on the verge of imploding.
Without Minnesota and Wisconsin — two schools that will leave for the Big Ten in 2013 — the remaining powers became concerned about the future direction of the league.
Faison told the Herald last week: “Several institutions have been looking at the college hockey landscape and different possibilities that might be out there. At the end of the day, we have to do what’s in the best interest of UND hockey and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s an emotional decision. It’s a business decision.”
The new conference is expected to bring members new revenue and media opportunities. It also brings together schools with similar profiles.
The schools that are departing the WCHA will not be subject to a buyout if they notify the league of their departure a year in advance, according to a copy of the WCHA handbook obtained by the Herald.
Notre Dame will decide its future path by the end of the summer.
The Fighting Irish are being courted by both the new, startup conference and by Hockey East. Should they join Hockey East, UND’s new league would likely proceed as a six-team conference.
Notre Dame assistant athletic director Tom Nevala didn’t return a phone message last week.
“We’re going to do everything we can to ensure that our program stays strong and competitive on a national level,” Faison told the Herald last week. “Every year, our goal is to compete for a national championship. We’re going to do everything we need to make that happen.”
Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.