a terrible blight on our fine country
This rumor had been bouncing around the internet for long enough that it was hardly a rumor anymore, but Hoke has just confirmed it and now it's really not a rumor:
Hoke on Vinopal: "Ray decided to go back Youngstown. That issue's more a family issue."
Michigan loses both a two-star recruit no one expected would ever play and a guy who started half his freshman season, which says all you need to about last year's secondary. The free safety spot is manned by… uh… definitely somebody. I think we can safely assert Michigan will put eleven players on the field this fall. That's all we know. Since the depth chart by class has exactly one other body at the spot, that true freshman Minnesota decommit Tamani Carter, it's safe to say the eventual starter is kind of up in the air.
Keep track of Michigan's offers on the 2012 Michigan Recruiting Board, which will see some format updates as soon as Michigan starts getting commits.
Weekend Practice Visits
Spring practice kicked off last weekend, and Tom had a full list of weekend visitors coming into the practice.
It is hard to envision Dodson needing a redshirt year once he enrolls at his school of choice. You just don’t see very many prospects with his size/quickness/strength ratio. He has areas where he needs improvement like any other high school junior. However, he’s already at a point where we foresee him competing for playing time as soon as he hits campus.
Ohio State recruiting guru says a qualifying test score is all that stands between Dodson and an Ohio State offer, so making in-roads before that offer comes is a Big Deal for the Wolverines. In Tom's interview, Kyle said he's not going to wait around for schools to offer him.
MI OL/DT Kelby Latta was on campus over the weekend ($, info in header).
IL DT Vontrell Williams told Tom that he's always been a Michigan fan, and that the Wolverines are in his top 3, even though he doesn't hold an offer. He'll be back in town for the spring game.
OH DE Pharoah Brown liked the pace of Michigan's practice ($, info in header), and the visit moved Michigan up in his recruitment. He told Tom he'll decide after just a couple official visits in the fall.
Royce Jenkins-Stone was on campus over the weekend. Sam Webb thinks Michigan is the favorite for Royce, and says that Michigan was a hit with Royce's family. Royce is continuing to rack up bigtime offers, and told Tom about his decision timeline.
He plans on coming out with a top ten before the season, a top five mid season, and then a top three before he decides towards the end of the season. He was also nominated for the US Army All American game, so he may decide then if he gets chosen.
So, although Michigan fans were hoping he might break the seal on the 2012 class, it doesn't look likely.
MA LB Camren Williams spoke with Tom about how his Michigan visit went:
This visit was probably a 10. The visit was huge, it's definitely up there in my favorite schools. I want to make my decision in June, so I definitely want to get back up here for another visit. I really like Coach Hoke, Coach Smith, and Coach Mattison a lot. It's going to be a great place and I'm really interested in looking into Michigan more.
Williams is down to Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, North Carolina, and Wake Forest. He plans to take at least four more visits, including another to Michigan, before deciding. The Wolverines also made an impression on and excited his teammate, CB Armani Reeves ($, info in headers).
MI CB Terry Richardson likes the new staff following his visit($, info in header).
General visitor reactions to last weekend, and most seemed to love the energy.
IN DT Sheldon Day visited a couple weeks back, and gave that trip to Ann Arbor "high marks" ($, info in header).
MN OL Jonah Pirsig will visit this week.
On yesterday's recruiting roundup, Sam Webb said OH DE Chris Wormley will be in attendance this weekend, probably with his mom.
Aside from those guys, Tom has an enormous list of prospects who will be in town:
- IN WR Aloyis Gray
- IN TE Pierre Aka
- MI TE Devin Funchess
- OH TE AJ Williams
- MI TE Matt Doneth
- IN OL Sid Anvoots
- MI OL Chase DeBack
- IN OL DeAndre Herron
- MI OL DaRon Brown
- MI DE Mario Ojemudia
- OH DE Alex Pace
- MI LB Royce Jenkins-Stone
- OH LB DeAndre Rollins
- OH S Allen Gant
- NY CB Wayne Morgan
- OH CB De'van Bogard
All those guys, plus some additional "maybes." Check out Tom's post for the full list. As for future weeks, CO TE Evan Baylis will visit Michigan on his spring break, and OH QB Austin Appleby will visit next weekend.
Not only is OH QB Maty Mauk (at right) closing in on national passing records (currently held by his brother, former Cincinnati QB Ben), but he's also closing in - slowly but surely - on a college choice:
Colleges have certainly paid attention. He has offers from Notre Dame, Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, Vanderbilt and Cincinnati. Those also happen to be his favorite schools at this time. "I would like to make a decision before my senior season so I have it down to those schools," Mauk said. "I have been to see all of them but Illinois and I plan on seeing this in the next month or two. I want to be in a spread offense with the coaches and people that I want to be around. I also want to get a good education."
Uh, maybe nobody told him Michigan doesn't plan to run a spread anymore? He seems to like Michigan, but his family's relationship with Brian Kelly may be hard to overcome.
I told you to beware a Bleacher Report link when I shared the info originally, so it's no surprise that CA WR Malik Gilmore does not in fact have Michigan and Notre Dame atop his list. Cal leads Notre Dame, Washington, Oregon, UCLA, and Arkansas. He does plan to use all 5 officials before deciding.
Tom broke the news last week that MI OL Ben Braden had received a Michigan offer, and it sounds like the big instate OT will not wait long to make a decision ($, info in header). Might we finally see the first Hello post of the year? Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Syracuse are the other finalists.
CA OL Erik Magnusson spoke with Tom about his recruitment... and it sounds good:
My list of top five changes about every week with new offers coming and what not, but Michigan is always in it. Right now it's Oregon, USC, Michigan, Miami, and Oklahoma.
"School X is always in my ever-changing favorites list" is usually code for "School X is my favorite, or close to it." Erik plans to take an official visit to Ann Arbor.
MD DE Brent Wilkerson has an interesting "best experience" of the recruiting process so far:
For me, it was talking to Michigan and getting that offer. They're a great academic school and they have a tremendous football tradition. I talked to the defensive line coach and the defensive coordinator, who coached with the Ravens. That was pretty awesome to talk to those guys.
Maybe that bodes well for Michigan's chances with Wilkerson and his teammate, DE Michael Moore.
OH OL Anthony Stanko has committed to Penn State. He was on the radar, but unlikely to get a Michigan offer.
TX LB Jeremiah Tshimanga committed to Oklahoma State.
Rivals has released their first set of 5-star prospects. Among those with Michigan offers are PA DE Noah Spence, MD DT Eddie Goldman, FL OL John Theus, MD WR Stefon Diggs, MO WR Dorial Green-Beckham, NC OL DJ Humphries.
Keep an eye on MI LB Lester Liston, from the same high school as Justice Hayes ($, info in header). MI DT Dakota Perry likes Michigan but isn't hearing from the Wolverines. IL DE Mikhail Dubose is hearing from Michigan. GA DE Jordan Watkins is hoping for a Michigan offer.
3/18/2011 – Michigan 2, Western Michigan 5 – 25-10-4
3/19/2011 – Michigan 4, Notre Dame 2 - 26-10-4, third place
So… hockey. I went down to the Joe on Friday, sat directly behind the goal where Michigan shot twice, and saw Western Michigan score four goals in the (a?) second as Michigan got thumped embarrassingly. They went out and won the next afternoon against Notre Dame but even that win over a solid team seemed to bode unwell—Michigan was outshot 44-23. It was only Shawn Hunwick going ape that prevented an 0-2 weekend that would have provided a sad counterpoint to the basketball team's overachieving.
Depending on the events of this weekend we'll look back at the CCHA finals as a hiccup or the omen that spelled doom, and since our bracket is a team we split with earlier in the season and almost definitely BC it's probably going to be the latter. Getting outshot 2-1 and surviving on a goal from Jeff Rohrkemper of all people does not seem like a recipe for tournament success. Right now I find it very hard to believe Michigan will get to the Frozen Four unless Hunwick is as insane as he was against ND.
Deblois runs train. Derek Deblois was extremely fortunate not to get kicked out of the Western game after taking two dumb boarding penalties. I wouldn't have complained if he got the boot on the first one, and I think he was saved on the second by the fact that he was boarding the opponent into a linesman, not the actual boards. If the linesman wasn't in the way that could have been extremely ugly. Western scored on both power plays; Deblois justly sat out the ND game.
Penalty kill debacle. WMU was 3/6 on the PP and Michigan is now 25th nationally on the PK. I have no idea why. Michigan returned the entirety of what was a top five PK last year and now they're turrible. I think Hunwick's size is a major factor, as he's just not going to block nearly as many open shots he can't see as a big guy, but last year a lot of opponent power plays were spent trying to dig the puck out of their own end.
If Michigan's going to do anything in the tourney they're going to have to stay out of the box. A penalty filled game will not be to their benefit. Maybe not so much against UNO's meh PP, but BC is sixth and will gut Michigan like a fish if they take dumb penalties.
Goodbye, fourth line? Now is the time—last week might have been the time—to consign Michigan's dodgy fourth line to the bench except in select situations. I'd throw Winnett down there and use Lynch as the defensive responsibility on the midget line of Treais-Sparks-Someone, but Red has always given Winnett more time than it seems he warrants with his play so I don't think we'll see that. I'm guessing if we do see a short bench it won't be until the second round as M tries to keep players fresh.
Atmosphere. Kudos to the Western fans for turning out en masse at the Joe. The Friday game featured student sections chanting at each other*, and while I wished things were a little more clever there was more atmosphere for College Hockey at the Joe than there had been since the Chris Kunitz-led Ferris State team played Michigan for the CCHA title in a packed building. It's too bad for the league that the two new powers are fan-deficient ND and Miami; if Ferris and Western were making the Joe on the regular the CCHA finals would be far less depressing.
*[I wish the Michigan students had responded to the "why so quiet" chant with "we are losing," and followed that with "this is why you go to Western," though I'm not sure how you chant-ify the last bit.]
Please don't go full Roy. I'm a little worried about Shawn Hunwick's tendency to get punchy when things aren't going well. He took a critical penalty earlier in the year and could have gotten one in a scrum midway through the second. When he's on he's very good; against Western it seemed like the Broncos got in his head and affected his performance.
Big Ten Section
In case you were wondering about other Big Ten teams adding hockey, Illinois says no, Nebraska says no, Iowa says no (sort of, no quote), and I'm pretty sure you don't even have to bother asking Northwestern, Indiana, or Purdue. If you're wondering about CCHA teams packing it in, they seem pretty sanguine about it:
Are the non-Big Ten teams worried about their future? Let’s see: Miami: Nope. Bowling Green: Not at all. Lake Superior State and Ferris State: Nah (Great quotes from LSSU coach Jim Roque). Western Michigan: Not really. Minnesota State Mankato: Not entirely. Notre Dame: Maybe just a tiny bit. Alabama-Huntsville: Cautiously optimistic? Northern Michigan: Not “crying” about it. Nebraska-Omaha: Not worried, just not too happy. (Pretty much everybody is saying the same things. I’d imagine (hope?) we’ll have a much better idea about a plan after the American Hockey Coaches Association meetings over the summer.)
That ND article also has quotes from Jeff Jackson about trying to get scheduling arrangements with the Big Ten teams. Michigan "has obviously become a rival" and Michigan State "is also an option." LSSU's Jim Roque points out that they're talking about one home series a year they won't draw as well for since no one turns out to see OSU, something Playing For Stuff would entirely replace. I cannot emphasize enough how awesome Playing For Stuff would be.
The Big Ten Network is committing to "at least 40" hockey games as part of the new arrangement. That's a third of the conference schedule and approximately two per week over the course of the season, which is way less than I'd like but way more than they're doing now. The 40 number suggests they won't be moving start times for TV.
Unexpectedly Long Recruiting Section
Feel free to file this under "I'll believe it when I see it," but highly touted forward Max Domi (yes that Domi) is apparently headed for the USHL and then college:
“I played junior but (Max’s mother) Leanne and I want our kid to go to college,” said Tie Domi, Max’s celebrity father. “It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but for us, it was the right decision.”
Young Domi, 15, was expected to be one of the top choices in the OHL draft, and has informed junior teams in the province to pass on him. The decision by Domi shouldn’t be considered a shot at junior hockey… The real shot in all this is that Domi is bypassing tier-two junior hockey in Ontario to play next season in the United States Hockey League, where he will finish his last year of high school.
Absolutely no one believes this is actually going to happen, but if Domi doesn't go to Kingston or one of the don't-draft-me-whoops-I'll-report spots (Kitchener, London, Windsor) then maybe it's not a front. Domi visited Michigan about a month ago, FWIW, and is supposed to be highly interested. If Domi actually goes to college and actually picks Michigan he'd be a 2012 recruit.
Insert link to rabble-rousing article about how messed up the major junior draft system is here. Also wonder why the hell USA Hockey would agree to this:
Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have an agreement that borders on the obscene when it comes to restricting the rights of young people. Fearful it will lose its best prospects to college hockey, the Canadian League has convinced Hockey Canada to prohibit any 16-year-old Canadian player, in conjunction with USA Hockey, from playing in the USHL unless they appeal to the National Appeals Committee and demonstrate "special circumstances" or move there with a parent. What makes it so obscene is the CHL opens its arms to American-born 16-year-olds and has no problem with doing it, but insists on making it a one-way street.
Canada forces their players who want to play college to play in Junior A—the iffy circuit that Burlon, Caporusso, and most other Canadian players in college toiled in—instead of the vastly higher quality USHL. I'm confused as to what their leverage is here. If USA Hockey welcomed them, what recourse would Canada have? They've already set their phasers to maximum predation.
Why is this a one-way street? I have no idea, but I emailed USA Hockey in case they do.
(HT: Western College Hockey)
BONUS random scouting report: AmericanDream is probably the most connected and reliable poster on HFBoards when it comes to exceedingly young American hockey players (tallest midget jokes apply but "reliable message board poster" is about as good as it gets when we're talking about 16 year old hockey players), and he provided a scouting report on recent Michigan commit Alex Talcott. Talcott is the only '95 commit Michigan has who isn't trying out for (or has already made) the NTDP but it's not for a lack of talent:
Kind of shocked that Alex Talcott did not get an invite as well. extremely gifted player who should go very high for this years OHL draft. The kid is a fire ball on skates, absolutely electric and physical. Some say he will go in the OHL draft's first round along with Compher (both University of Michigan star recruits).
Not sure if Talcott said he is going to the OHL so dont even bother, but if I could make a list of the top 5 forward eligible for this group it would be: Compher, Fasching, Shea, Brian Williams, and Talcott as the top 5 imo with Hayden, Guertler, and Allen right there as well.
Bold mine; those guys are current commits. I doubt that Talcott is already set on the OHL since he just committed two weeks ago, but stranger things have happened and as mentioned Michigan is already forward-heavy in the 2013 class.
California OT prospect Erik Magnuson has recently seen his recruitment take off with offers from Arizona, Miami, Michigan, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA among others. The La Costa Canyon High offensive lineman's stature lives up to his last name standing at 6-foot-6, and 275-pounds. Here's a look at his film and what he had to say about Michigan.
TOM: For anyone that hasn't seen you play can you describe yourself and your game?
ERIK: I'm quick, athletic, big, and aggressive. I just love to compete no matter who my opponent is.
TOM: Since you're from California how interested are you in Michigan, and how much do you know about Michigan?
ERIK: I'm really interested. I've never been there, but I know the coaches from before and I love them.
TOM: You knew them from when they were at San Diego State?
ERIK: Yeah, I know them from there. I feel like Coach Funk is a great coach and really knows a lot about the offensive line. I know him the best, and talk to him a lot. Coach Hoke is just the man. He took me in when I was a sophomore and just really treated me well. He was always true with me and never fed me any BS.
TOM: Again to go back to the California thing, is distance going to be an issue for you?
ERIK: I'm not sure yet, because I've only visited west coast schools, but I don't really think so. I know my family will still come to games no matter where I go. Also, I've spent a lot of time in Canada so I know what cold weather is all about. The weather doesn't affect me at all; I prefer it actually.
TOM: Does that mean that you're going to try to get out to Michigan any time soon?
ERIK: I'm not really sure about any time soon because I'm really busy with AAU basketball and football training and camps. It's hard to find time, but I'm for sure going to use one of my official visits to Michigan.
TOM: To use an official that means you have to wait until the season starts. Are you planning on waiting until signing day to make your decision, or do you want to get it done sooner?
ERIK: I haven't decided yet if I want to wait until signing day, but I'm definitely going to wait until I'm comfortable and 100% sure. I just have to weigh out all my options and do what is best for me in the end.
TOM: With that being said, and I know it's early, but do you have a top list yet?
ERIK: My list of top five changes about every week with new offers coming and what not, but Michigan is always in it. Right now it's Oregon, USC, Michigan, Miami, and Oklahoma.
TOM: When you go to evaluate these schools to make your final decision what are you looking for?
ERIK: A winning program where I feel like I will have a good chance to get a lot of playing time. And like I said I want someone that I feel comfortable with, it's going to be a lot of how I feel.
Meta. Here's a screenshot of a blog taking a screenshot of itself:
I wish I had thought of that. That's UMHoops. After a season of coverage they're gently prodding people to click the donate button. I did, then checked my email to find that I had received a donation exactly the same size as the one I'd just made. I promise this will happen to you if you chip in.
If you promise to be gentle, I will gingerly shake your hand. Congratulations to wrestler Kellen Russell, who won the national championship at 141 pounds and was the primary reason Michigan finished 15th at the national championships. He beat Boris Novachkov—no doubt sent by a Russian oligarch to destroy democracy—of Cal in the final.
Russell went 38-0 against an insane gauntlet of opponents. The Big Ten featured five of the top six wrestlers in his weight class. Russell beat all of them, beat a bunch of them again in the conference tourney, beat a bunch of them again again in the national tournament, and finally defeated Russia's nefarious plans in the final. Statistically it's the best season in Michigan wrestling history even if it came by the slimmest of margins:
It didn’t matter when he heard his ankle pop while he was tied, midway through the championship match and couldn’t put pressure on his leg.
It didn’t matter that it took Russell a combined four overtimes to advance through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds, or that both wins came from the slimmest of margins — a meager 21 seconds of combined riding time, earned by being on top of your opponent.
Russell returns for another go-around next year.
We are talking about practice. Normally the start of spring practice would get banner headlines around here, but something something basketball something so here's this:
I was slightly disturbed by the bit where they run through the dong forest:
Whatever happened to family values? /boren'd
Draft tea leaves. Michigan had their pro day, during which Jonas Mouton showed relatively well and Martell Webb showed at 274(!) pounds. Commence retroactive Greg Frey assault, though:
G Stephen Schilling did pretty much what everyone expected in Ann Arbor. His athleticism, quick feet and pulling speed continue to entice NFL teams. He looked solid in positional drills, showing he can physically do what he will be called upon to do.
The one issue that showed up during his workout, something not unexpected from watching Schilling on film, was his shaky technique. He often bent at the waist and leaned rather than keeping his feet under him.
I'm not even mad. The Tennessee game was a crazy outlier, a 30-point blowout in which the winning team made no free throws and only attempted one. Surely you cannot find one Tennessee fan on the planet who is complaining about the refereeing in the aftermath. Surely this is the one game ever played in which everyone agrees that—
Tennessee is better than Michigan.
Yeah, I said it. Tennessee is better. It was obvious at the outset that Michigan could not guard Tennessee. They were too slow. They were guarding with their hands and fouling. We were getting past their defenders at will.
Then, about 10 minutes in, we were only up about 5 and we had completely outplayed them. I began to think we may have problems.
Then the refs took over. They called charges if Michigan's players even thought about moving their feet to establish position...which they never did. After four bogus charges (and one legitimate one on them that went uncalled), Tennessee changed its offense. UT no longer drove the ball. They settled or outside shots and pull ups. They missed. A lot. The refs had accomplished their mission. They single-handedly took Tennessee out of its offense. Then Michigan started hitting from outside.
Thanks to the above elements, Michigan went on a run. Tennessee got down. Then Tennessee quit. I'm not excusing that, but given the recent events of the past few days and given that it was abundantly clear from the officiating that UT would not be allowed to win this game, it's understandable. So a loss turned into a blowout loss.
Thank God college basketball is over. I won't watch another game in this tournament because it's ridiculously subjective and corrupt. I just don't know if I'll care enough to watch any of it next year. It's like scripted reality TV. Can't wait for football.
That is amazing. I love this man for posting this thing on the Tennessee message board that had the nice story about Beilein. He has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no possible game in which fans of the loser will not blame the refs.
Exit Pearl. Bruce Pearl has been fired at Tennessee for lying to NCAA investigators. There were some minor recruiting violations and one extremely minor violation of the bump rule, too, but if Pearl just says "my bad" in the room he gets away with a minor suspension a la Izzo/Calhoun. Instead he lies and then fails to report the bump violation and he's out.
Is this Tennessee doing a 180 from earlier in the year when they seemed determined to hold on to Pearl at all costs? It doesn't look like it. Fans are apoplectic. Wes Rucker tweeted that anyone who thinks Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton wants a new coach "is wrong"; that link contains one of those impossibly long and plausible-seeming emails that get batted around the internet but can never be confirmed suggesting the same. Meanwhile, FOX's Jeff Goodman says that UT's hand was forced:
Hamilton — according to sources — was recently informed that the NCAA would be coming down hard on Pearl and he opted to cut ties.
Add another notch on Bylaw 10.1's belt.
The obvious comparison is to Tressel, who voluntarily extended his suspension to five games as if his violation is on par with those of his players. Media still isn't buying this, especially if the suspension only applies to gameday. In Tressel's corner: he didn't lie to anyone's face and he didn't follow up his transgression with an otherwise minor violation that proved he'd learned nothing, then score another violation in March—ie, now. Not so much in his corner: Pearl's troubles stem from a minor recruiting violation acquired in the pursuit of a player he didn't actually get; Tressel covered up violations that made five important players ineligible through an entire season, failed to disclose the problem four separate times, and duped the NCAA into making them eligible for the Sugar Bowl. I think Tressel's violation is considerably worse than Pearl's but that could just be a zillion losses talking.
Here's one bet on supplemental. Notre Dame terrorbeast Michael Floyd got hit with something between a garden-variety and Kevin Grady "Mickey Mouse is a dog" frightening DUI, getting pulled over with a .19 BAC after running a stop sign. That would warrant a game or two suspension at most places. At Notre Dame they have some jackbooted bureaucrats called the Office of Residence Life who are like every evil movie dean ever, though. Pot possession? Gone for the year… or out for the Purdue game*. Drankin'? No big deal or season-long suspension.
Which will it be? Well, that last link may be the most relevant: TE Will Yeatman got booted for a year for being one of 37 underage ND students ticketed at a house party. He had picked up a DUI in January for driving down the sidewalk with a .11 BAC. Floyd has not one but two underage drinking citations in his past and by exceeding .15 BAC has been charged with a more serious version of drunk driving. If precedent holds Brian Kelly is going to watch his best player get suspended by the dread Office and head to the NFL's supplemental draft.
*[I could not for the life of me find definitive word on what Ragone got hit with, but the NCAA says he played in every game except ND's opener.]
Just screwin' around for pi day. It turns out Zack Novak doesn't know 62 digits of pi:
He does know more than you do.
Etc.: Jalen Rose makes it very clear for anyone who still has trouble parsing Jalen Rose's very clear sentences. Ohio State rabble-rouser Bruce Hooley gets insta-fired for his comments about Tressel, and my reaction is admiration—people in Ann Arbor itself still have to deal with miserable schticky losers, let alone Detroit. Eamonn Brennan says Michigan fans have a lot to look forward to. Boston College fans shipped to St. Louis as four seed UNH gets to play at home are on-board with ditching the current regional format. The Bylaw Blog argues that anyone with a problem with the NCAA should really look at the NBA and NFL for providing zero alternatives. Nebraska won't add hockey even though they've got a multipurpose arena opening in 2013. The culprit is the usual: Title IX, a law made in a different world. In this one 57% of college students are women.
As expected, the Big Ten was all like "yoink," announcing it will begin play in 2013 when Penn State moves into its new arena. I laid out the reasons I think this is a good move for college hockey as a whole (as long as measures to prevent smaller CCHA teams from folding are taken) in an earlier post, but there are still a ton of variables to work out.
Western college hockey schools will probably look like this in 2013:
- North Dakota
- St. Cloud
- Bemidji State
- Colorado College
- Michigan Tech
With three of college hockey's premiere schools and another three or four regular tourney contenders the WCHA will be fine. The two Big Ten schools finished fifth and seventh this year and were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. As far as the product on the ice goes, they'll be fine.
- Notre Dame
- Western Michigan
- Ferris State
- Lake Superior State
- Northern Michigan
As long as ND and Miami stick around it's a viable conference with at least two bids every year and possibly a third when WMU/Ferris/Northern are having a good year. Finances might be tighter but I'm not sure how much of a difference it will make—it's not like anyone in the CCHA was getting more than peanuts from FSD.
Bowling Green, FWIW, seems to be past the bit where they threaten their lone national championship program:
"Our member schools have a commitment to hockey, so we'll figure this out."
Christopher was quick to reiterate that the news does not shake Bowling Green's commitment to its hockey program.
"When we went through the process a couple of years ago, we put our stake in the ground that we were going to sponsor a strong hockey program," he said. "I'm not concerned about this news affecting the future of hockey at Bowling Green.
With eight teams everyone in the league can play four against each other and still maintain 28-game conference schedules, or they can cut it back a bit.
- Michigan State
- Ohio State
- Penn State
The Big Ten has announced teams will play four games against the other five opponents, leaving 14-16 nonconference games available depending on whether or not the Big Ten takes advantage of exemptions for travelling to Alaska.
Despite small school fans wailing about how they're doomed, Michigan is the only(!) Big Ten school to make the tournament the last two years. The year before that Ohio State was the only addition, squeezing into the last at large slot and getting clunked by BU. You have to go back to 2008 to find more than two Big Ten teams in the tourney*.
*[Michigan was a 1 and made the Frozen Four; Minnesota, MSU, and Wisconsin were all threes. Minnesota went out right away, and the other two made it to the second round.]
Conference tourney: how does it do?
WCHA teams currently play in St. Paul. CCHA teams currently play in Detroit. Big Ten teams would probably do neither. They could alternate between the X, the Joe, and… uh… Pittsburgh I guess. Or they could put it in Chicago, a location that's as close to central as you can get and features throngs of Big Ten grads.
Or… you know… the thing is… right now the CCHA tourney is a three week affair. With six teams you could play three best two-of-three series on home ice. That provides 10-15 probably-sold-out games. A four-team tourney after a first round provides 8-10 games, four of which are going to be at a neutral-ish site hosting doubleheaders. It seems like abandoning the neutral ice would provide more money and a better championship structure.
College hockey is addicted to hypothetically neutral ice, but will it be enough to overcome doubling your playoff revenue?
TV: Yes, please
Hockey loves HD and I'm betting most Michigan hockey fans used to cameras from the 70s that make everything look underwater almost gasped the first time they saw a BTN hockey production. I remember it myself—a road game against OSU with a picture so sharp it could skate. The main asset from the fan's perspective is the prospect of ten road games on BTN.
Getting to ten road games is kind of a hike, though. Basketball teams rarely play on Friday, so you can televise a Friday game of the week, but what happens on Saturday at 8:00? What do you do when two teams are playing simultaneously? There are three options:
- Many games are not televised on BTN.
- BTN deploys its bonus feeds.
- Games move for TV.
#2 seems ideal but probably costs more money than it brings in. #1 could make the TV situation worse than it is right now.
#3 would be weird but I think it's manageable. They can probably massage the schedule such that there are rarely three conference series on the same weekend. Unfortunately, getting two games on Friday would require one starting at 7:30 Eastern, and the other at 9 Central. That's going to hurt attendance.
We might start seeing a fair number of series that go Saturday-Sunday—a quick look at the basketball schedule doesn't show anything pressing most Sundays and even most Saturdays could hypothetically squeeze two hockey games in. If you have at least two teams playing nonconference series every week you could hypothetically broadcast every conference game if the only overlap is on Saturday.
The conferences above seem viable to me, but they might not be done shuffling. I'm not sure how much credence to put in rumors that the WCHA will seek to poach Miami and ND since those teams are very far away from the WCHA core (Miami's shortest road trip would be 681 miles to Michigan Tech, longer than Miami's longest current conference trip) and travel costs would seem to eat up more money than either team would get from increased attendance at their nice, new, very small arenas.
I don't think the CCHA is going to take another look at Huntsville since the same ruthless cost-benefit equation that saw UAH denied when UNO left still applies, but when Niagara left the CHA they wanted to get into the CCHA and only grudgingly accepted entrance into Atlantic Hockey. AH has a cap on the number of scholarships you can award significantly below the NCAA's max of 18, and as a result a Niagara program good enough to twice get NCAA at-large consideration has fallen off the national radar. Niagara would bolt for the CCHA in a hot second if the conference would take them. If the CCHA wanted another team, Robert Morris would be the most likely candidate. They're located in Pittsburgh.
The most likely outcome seems to be the status quo above, but I'd watch those AH schools.
If we don't get that AH move, college hockey finally has some spots for new teams to come in. I'm not sure any Big Ten teams would add hockey without a crazy rich guy donation similar to Penn State's but there's been a steady stream of smaller schools that start up, find that there's nowhere to go, and then evaporate. Now you might see a Wayne State stick in the CCHA.
Let's play for stuff
The FA Cup
One of the most exciting aspects for Michigan hockey is the prospect of getting 14-16 nonconference games, allowing Michigan to play BC, BU, North Dakota, and other teams they have a history with on the regular. On the other hand, I've played too much Football Manager to not look on that massive schedule gap as an opportunity to add silverware to college hockey. This seems like a fantastic opportunity to add a cup competition for Michigan-ish schools.
Unfortunately, NCAA scheduling regulations mean that everyone always tries to play the maximum number of games and that makes structuring a competition between seven teams awkward, as does the geography, as does the presumably very large CCHA conference schedule. We can either add BGSU or Notre Dame, or both and boot Tech since Tech has the GLI and is always terrible.
Assuming the latter:
1. Create groups of four by splitting the Big Ten teams and the UP teams and dividing the other four up randomly. Example group: Michigan, Lake Superior, Ferris State, BGSU.
2. Michigan and MSU play home and home series against the non-UP teams early in the season and alternate home and away with whichever UP team is in their bracket yearly.
3. The CCHA teams set up their scheduling such that teams in the same group play an early conference series. In the example above, LSSU-FSU, LSSU-BG, and FSU-BG would all take place before Christmas.
4. At the end of this process you have four teams having played each other round-robin twice. Pick the top two teams World Cup-style. These teams move on to the Joe to play a traditional college hockey tournament that probably replaces the GLI. (Issue: what about teams not selected? They wouldn't want to leave two games on the table but the only teams that would have an opening are the other teams in the tourney, most of which are other teams in their conference. Maybe you could get the NCAA to exempt the finals? This would lead to more of these tourneys, which would be cool.)
- Assuming no more GLI, Michigan and MSU spend six nonconference games playing old conference foes.
- Noncon-restricted CCHA teams spend two games each against MSU and UM, which helps mitigate losing those old rivalries.
- The GLI gets way more interesting.
- You're creating a banner that means something.
I know Tech started the GLI in the 50s and they think it's really important but they've been so, so terrible for so long that the tournament's way less than it should be.