UMass Lowell Exploring Conference Options
River Hawks will stay in Hockey East through
|Freshman forward Paul Worthington
and his UMass Lowell teammates will be Hockey East members
next season. The River Hawks' conference status beyond
2007-08, however, may be subject to the school's board
LOWELL, Mass. – While UMass Lowell
is currently exploring potential options that could mean leaving
Hockey East for another Division I conference, athletic director
Dana Skinner says the program will definitely remain with
Hockey East for one more season.
Hockey East requires a 16-month notice
from a school wishing to leave the conference. If a school
leaves earlier than that, it will be subjected to a fine.
Skinner said UMass Lowell will not violate that policy if
the decision is made to leave, and also said the River Hawks,
“are not even thinking along those lines yet.”
As of Friday afternoon, Hockey East commissioner
Joe Bertagna said he had not heard from UMass Lowell with
that notice. If he does, he said he will do whatever he can
to keep the River Hawks in the league.
“Hockey East very much wants UMass
Lowell to remain right where it is,” Bertagna said.
“We will do everything to try to convince them to stay.
We really fully believe they can be very successful here in
According to Skinner, talk of bolting
for another conference is very premature. The UMass Board
of Trustees is evaluating the program's future. According
to an article in Friday's Lowell Sun, some higher
education officials say shifting UMass Lowell out of Hockey
East is part of board chairman Stephen Tocco's desire to solidify
UMass Amherst's position as the system's centerpiece.
“The board has been emphasizing
what they call ‘branding excellence’ for quite
awhile,” Skinner said. “Defining how that applies
to Lowell, you have to examine a bunch of issues: fan support,
funding, competitiveness in Hockey East.
“So, in the end, what we’re
trying to do is define excellence and determine what it will
take to achieve that excellence. I’m not as fearful
of this process as others are. I actually think it’s
an important process for everyone in higher education or any
business. How do you define excellence, and how do you obtain
When asked what the positives would be
in leaving Hockey East for another conference, Skinner acknowledged
it was too early to fully know.
“I wouldn’t know that yet
because, frankly, we haven’t even explored them,”
Skinner said. “That’s what the task force is for
– to try to look at all of our options because clearly
there are a great number of advantages to being in Hockey
East. There certainly are very few negatives to being affiliated
with a conference like Hockey East. It’s a question
of other issues we have to resolve here.
“We’re the only school in
the whole conference that doesn’t own its own hockey
arena. That causes conflicts. There have been situations when
we’ve actually had to relocate games out of the Tsongas
Arena to other arenas, and it gets a little difficult to conduct
a hockey program in a conference like Hockey East when you
have some of those challenges. Our intent is to try to examine
those challenges, see if we can find a way to resolve a number
of our issues, define excellence as appropriately as we can
and move forward.”
UMass Lowell, an original member of Hockey
East, hopes to remain with the conference when all is said
“Hockey East is a great conference
for UMass Lowell. It’s a terrific conference, and we
are thrilled to be a member of Hockey East. We’d like
to be a member of Hockey East forever.”
Jeff Howe can be reached at email@example.com.