Sauer – the fifth-winningest coach in college history
– writes a bi-weekly column for Inside College Hockey.com.
"The Dean" was the head coach for 31 years at Colorado
College and Wisconsin, where he won two national titles. Sauer
retired at the end of the 2001-02 season.
listening pleasure, find The
Bud Song on Wisconsin's official site.
of the fun in doing this column is the opportunity to interact
with you, the hockey fan. Please send your questions or comments
27, 2003 The
Dean's List by Jeff Sauer
Last week, while
taking part in ESPN's Selection Show, I got the opportunity to meet
with the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee and find out how they select
the 16 teams that are competing for the national championship.
is very professional and uses criteria that makes things very objective
about determining the best at-large teams. It wasn't too long ago
that I remember sitting in a room with coaches and committee members
older than me and arguing about which teams should make the field,
which at that time was much smaller.
The sport has
grown and changed.
I remember the
last time my Wisconsin team made the national tournament (two years
ago), I got the word in the press box at the Xcel Energy Center
after the second semifinal game in the WCHA Final Five had been
completed. A gentleman plugged in the results of that game, along
with the results of a CCHA game, into his computer and looked at
the rankings. He read the results, turned and shook my hand and
said "Coach, congratulations, you are in.''
It's a lot different
than the "good old days" when I was on the tournament
The way teams
used to be picked for the tournament was very subjective. I remember
being on the committee with Snooks Kelly and Amo Bessone and sitting
around arguing who were the best teams. Some of the time it was
done face-to-face in a smoked-filled room and some of the time the
lobbying was done over the phone.
I remember one
year I was at Colorado College and we had a pretty good team that
got hot in the playoffs. There was no criteria, so the committee
decided that we and Bowling Green should have a play-in game to
determine the last team to go to the Final Four. We had to travel
to Bowling Green to play the game. They beat us and ended up in
the tournament in 1978.
And I'll always
remember 1981, the year the Backdoor Badgers won the national championship.
Again I was at CC and we rallied in Madison to beat Wisconsin in
a classic series.
placed second that season, behind Minnesota, in the WCHA race. They
drew my CC team, which finished seventh, in the first round of the
playoffs. The Badgers whipped us, 8-2, in the first game of the
total-goal playoffs March 7. The next afternoon made history. CC
came from behind on what Badger fans still to this day call Black
Sunday to administer maybe the most humiliating loss in UW history
-- an 11-4 beating. That gave CC a 13-12 total-goals playoff win
and apparently ended the Badgers' season.
But I remember
leaving the Dane County Coliseum that afternoon and turning to my
dad on the bus and saying, "Badger Bob is already on the phone
to NCAA committee, lobbying for this team." He had the whole
week to lobby his cause.
went to Minnesota the next week and split two games with the Gophers,
a team with Neal Broten that would be the NCAA runner-up. We lost
the total-goals series by one goal. Of course, I spent Sunday trying
to plead my case to the committee, too. It didn't work.
picked Wisconsin to make the eight-team tournament, and sent the
Backdoor Badgers to Clarkson, where they won a total-goals series.
They went on to beat Minnesota in Duluth, Minn., to win the championship.
the system needed tweaking after that season and we moved toward
the computer-generated system you see now with the RPI and Pairwise
Rankings. It is more objective, and provides for a good tournament.
But after seeing
what happened this year, it may need tweaking again. St. Cloud State
got into this year's tournament fair and square, but the coaches
and the NCAA have to take a look at a system that logically doesn't
seem right. If St. Cloud finishes below Minnesota-Duluth during
the WCHA season and is beaten by Duluth in the playoffs, logic tells
you St. Cloud shouldn't finish ahead of them in the selection process.
It seems to
me late-season success and the playoffs should have some significance.
I'm sure fans at Providence and Michigan State question that, too.
I think more bearing should be placed on how a team does down the
stretch, and those issues will be addressed by the coaches in the
I expect this to be a great NCAA Tournament. There were always hard
feelings when the 13th-ranked team didn't make the 12-team tournament.
So, too, this year in a 16-team tournament, some teams felt left
Looking at the
field, I think the committee did a good job with the criteria given.
I expect an exciting last couple weeks of hockey.