No One's to Blame in Auto-Bid Issue
the news regarding the possibility of the CHA and WCHA losing
their automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament broke on this
Web site Wednesday, the discussion has ranged from the ridiculous
(the NCAA is trying to ruin college hockey) to the extremely
ridiculous (the MAAC is trying to take over college hockey).
The college hockey fans I’ve spoken with on this issue
seem bent on placing blame on someone for this situation.
the rub – no one is really at fault. Furthermore,
it behooves the conferences and the NCAA to work together
to resolve this issue for the good of college hockey.
this rule was designed with men’s basketball in mind.
But can you blame the NCAA Management Council for enacting
a measure to protect itself against institutions moving
to the Division I level in men’s hoops in order to
get a piece of the $75 million March Madness pie? Who can
blame the NCAA for trying to keep institutions like Lipscomb
(which elevated to D-I from the NAIA a few years ago) and
Morris Brown (that’s a school in Atlanta, not an NBA
reserve power forward) from making the jump in a quixotic
quest for a slice of that basketball money?
Should the NCAA
– which, it should be noted, is like the United Nations
in that it has as much power as its members give it –
have taken a closer look at this measure? Probably. That
being said, the fact that, out of all the Division I conferences
under its umbrella, only four leagues are negatively affected
by this change is a pretty good success rate. Should the
NCAA have notified the leagues that would be in line to
lose their auto-bids? Absolutely. But the NCAA and the leagues
recognize there is time to fix the problem and are moving
toward that end. With any luck, the Management Council will
adopt the grandfather clause that protects the CHA and WCHA
auto-bids at its April meeting.
similar vein, it is inexcusable for the WCHA and CHA to
be oblivious to a rule change that threatens their auto-bids
and, in the CHA’s case, their very existence. What
makes it even more alarming is the fact that the decision
to modify the D-I requirements occurred three years ago.
Thankfully, the MAAC, while exploring possibilities of hockey
expansion, alerted both the WCHA and CHA of the issue.
that, in theory, the WCHA wouldn’t really feel the
effects of losing its auto-bid – the winner of the
league’s postseason tournament likely would qualify
on its own merits. Without the auto-bids granted to the
CHA and MAAC, however, the smart money says the NCAA would
never have expanded to a 16-team hockey tournament. OK,
you’ll argue the CHA and MAAC representatives will
serve as first-round fodder for a team from an established
conference, but without their auto-bids and the resulting
tourney expansion, two teams that qualify for the 2003 NCAA
Tournament would still be on the bubble…and on the
outside looking in.
it another way: if you agree that the lack of an auto-bid
would threaten the CHA’s existence – and that’s
nearly impossible to deny – it’s possible that
we could lose more Division I teams (the count is down to
59 after Fairfield dropped its program Thursday). If that
happened, it would be no surprise at all to see the tournament
field backslide to 12. If you’re a college hockey
fan, it’s impossible to dismiss this issue by saying,
Perhaps the most
baseless criticism of this situation surrounds the whipping-boy
status given to the MAAC. Hey, we’ve all put down
the MAAC in the past and in many instances, that backlash
was warranted. In this case, however, the MAAC is not posturing
to establish itself as one of the pre-eminent conferences
in college hockey.
MAAC was exploring the possibility of expanding, then splitting
into two conferences for hockey. The goal was to add teams,
not simply add a bid for the 10 current MAAC clubs (11 until
Thursday). Fans routinely grouse about the lack of expansion
at the Division I level. Isn’t growth of the college
game what we want? Why, then, is it a point of contention
when the MAAC is looking at adding hockey-playing members?
Well-planned growth – and there is no reason to think
the MAAC is not proceeding in that manner – is good
for the game. Thinking otherwise would have precluded the
entry of schools like Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State
to the D-I ranks – institutions with quality teams,
fine facilities and rabid fan support.
hit with the news that the sport you love is faced a potential
crisis of this magnitude, it’s natural for fans to
respond with their hearts. In this instance, however, entities
that are trying to work toward a solution are being unfairly
targeted by knee-jerk reactions.
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