With NMU officially in WCHA, what now ND?

Submitted by Wolverine In Exile on July 14th, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Now with the Northern Michigan move to the WCHA all but official (http://www.collegehockeynews.com/news/2011/07/14_northerns_board_approv…), dominoes begin to fall into place. The next domino to fall is what Notre Dame will do. Right now, ND has 3 options:

 

1) Stay in the CCHA with Western, Lake St, Ferris St, BG and get either an AH team to flip or pick up Alabama-Huntsville to make a 6-team league and keep the autobid.

Pro: ND becomes lone league superpower, probably can get lots of games on CBS College Sports, guarantees almost yearly birth in the national tourney meaning they get the national exposure / credibility of a constant national presence, 4 out of 6 teams are within 3 hrs drive time of South Bend, lots of room to schedulee high profile out of conference games with big name teams on TV

Con: lesser league lowers prestige within college hockey, possible loss of revenue, no real rivalry with any remaining CCHA teams

Key question: would ND suck up their pride to be top dog in a lesser conference that would allow them to be national contender with nearly automatic road to the tourney every year? Does ND even want to be a conference cornerstone that has to carry along other members?

 

2) Join the NCHC and drag Western along to make an 8 team league.

Pro: exposure in possibly top college hockey conference ensures exposure within hockey circles, expands the ND brand westward, by leaving CCHA with Western probably kills CCHA and loss of CCHA autobid means one more at-large bid which probably goes to a NCHC team, small league means lots of OOC games, carry over rivalry with Miami OH and regional rivalry with Western, other teams in league don't have national resources to draw from like ND so ND becomes big dog financially in conference, almost guarantees ND will be on some cable station available on a national service like DirectTV/DishNet every game.

Con: lots of travel (Denver, Omaha, North Dakota, Minnesota), NCHC has cache among college hockey geeks but does being in a league with North Dakota/UNO/Denver U/Colorado College really increase ND's larger 'national' reputation?, first year in league possibility of being 5th best team (Minn Dul, ND, DU, Miami) and may be a struggle to get in national title contention on regular basis.

Key question: Would ND fit in a central / western CONUS centric league (Miami notwithstanding) that doesn't really match their historical demographics, university academic reputation, and would be a struggle to even be successful in every year?

3) Join Hockey East.

Pro: instant rivalry with BC and entrance into Boston market will be well received, good liklihood every game would be on TV via NESN, East coast market exposure is consistent with other ND teams' Big East membership, Hockey East has rep as premier hockey conference but ND has good chance of building cache within the conference quickly as ND name has big appeal in massachusetts catholic schools / recruiting areas

Con: travel is clustered but still not convienent as ND would conference outlier for everybody else, Hockey East competition may prevent ND from being a consistent national contender, no other rivalry in terms of similar school mission/size/academic rep outside of BC.

Key question: Does ND's other Big East like tendencies in all sports except football have enough momentum to drag ND eastward, even though travel costs and ability to be a consistent national contender are staring them in the face?

 

So this is the next step. ND's move will likely set the path for Western Michigan, the fate of the CCHA as a conference, the possible fate of BG / Ferris / Lake St as viable Div I hockey programs, and Ala-Huntsville's ultimate destiny as a Div I nomad. Looking at the three options above, I'd love to see ND take the bold step of becoming the cornerstone of a new CCHA that almost guarantees a dogfight each year for the #1 midwest regional seed with the new Big Ten conference champion. However, my mind says ND goes to Hockey East and Western is left with the unenviable task of keeping the CCHA together and transitioning it to a Grand Rapids centric league.

Comments

lhglrkwg

July 14th, 2011 at 11:01 PM ^

no way ND stays in the CCHA. but I'd bet they'll go to the NCHC. its a little bit better geographical fit but thats about all im going on

im sure the NCHC is begging ND to come over. as big time as most of those teams are in the college hockey realm, this is basically a no-name conference on the national scale. ND would be a huge boost to them

ckersh74

July 14th, 2011 at 11:24 PM ^

This. ^^

The CCHA is about to disintegrate. By the time the dust clears, it could be just Ferris and BG left over from this season. LSSU could head to the WCHA, as well as UAF. WMU is likely to want to head in the same direction as Notre Dame (NCHC). I don't know what Bowling Green is thinking, but I think Ferris could be done in 3-4 years. Ferris has a hard time drawing more than 1500 for anyone not named Michigan or Michigan State. Bringing in Huntsville, Robert Morris, Niagara, etc., is not going to move the needle in the right direction.

Alton

July 15th, 2011 at 10:35 AM ^

Yes, LSSU, Alaska and WMU all want out of the CCHA and into the WCHA or the NCHC.  That doesn't mean anything, since right now it doesn't look like those conferences want anything to do with them.  I think that what will save the CCHA is the fact that LSSU, Alaska and WMU have no appeal to any other conference, so they are stuck in the CCHA.

If the CCHA is left with a core of 5 teams, then it will be no problem at all for the league to find a 6th team to preserve their automatic bid.  Canisius, Robert Morris, Niagara and Mercyhurst all might be interested, and failing that, Alabama-Huntsville would be very very interested in competing for an automatic bid.  I think the CCHA barely hangs on, and not as a power conference, but hopefully this is enough to save the hockey programs at Ferris and Bowling Green.