Air Force to Join Atlantic Hockey in 2006-07
league stability, Air Force announced its jump to Atlantic Hockey
at a news conference Tuesday in Colorado Springs, leaving College
Hockey America in an enrollment bind.
will play next season in the CHA and then join Atlantic Hockey
for the 2006-07 season. The Rochester Institute of Technology
also moves into the AHA in ’06-07, bringing the league’s
enrollment to 10.
Force, College Hockey America’s team count will fall to
five – one fewer than the NCAA minimum for an automatic
bid to the NCAA Tournament. Unless a replacement is found, the
CHA will begin a two-year probation period with five teams in
2006-07, during which it will retain its autobid. If enrollment
is still below six in 2008-09, the league would lose the bid.
coupled with the desire to be in the same league as fellow service
academy Army, prompted Air Force to pursue the move in September.
are a number of reasons why this is great,” Falcons coach
Frank Serratore said. “It’s the best long-term fit
for us. Had we not taken advantage of this, what happens if the
CHA loses another team like Findlay last year? Maybe then, Atlantic
Hockey is full.”
made its first offer to the academy after a conference call of
athletic directors in February, but the marriage was delayed two
months as the sides hammered out an equitable schedule. At first,
the league – comprised entirely of Eastern schools –
proposed that Air Force play an unbalanced schedule of more road
games than home games to offset travel-cost concerns. When the
Falcons balked, the league went back and drafted an even schedule
in which all 10 schools will play 14 league games at home and
14 on the road.
When Air Force
and RIT join, each school will have a “buddy” that
it will play four times a year. The buddy pairings are Air Force
and RIT, Mercyhurst and Canisius, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart,
Army and Connecticut and Bentley and American International.
there will be two-year cycles during which teams alternate playing
others two and four times. The increased number of guaranteed
home games is considered a positive change by most AHA teams.
went 7-1-2 against Atlantic Hockey teams this season, and should
be able to better compete for the league title there than in the
CHA, where it finished fifth this year.
three hours before Air Force’s press conference, CHA commissioner
Bob Peters said he was not ready to make a comment about his league’s
future. Later in the day, the CHA released a statement that did
not include any concrete plans for expansion, only vague, optimistic
Hockey America will continue to actively seek membership expansion
and currently has had contact with several potential members,”
Peters said in the statement. “College hockey in general
has experienced dramatic expansion over the past 25 years and
College Hockey America will do its part to ensure continued expansion
now and in the future. The CHA will maintain its commitment of
strong leadership by continuing to encourage emerging collegiate
hockey programs to elevate to varsity status.”
that might have to be crossed off that list is Lindenwood University
in St. Charles, Mo. The Lions have been the most talked-about
possible replacement in the CHA, but moving their athletics department
from the NAIA to the NCAA is causing the school headaches.
we could do just ice hockey, it wouldn’t even be a question,”
Lindenwood athletic director John Creer told INCH on Tuesday.
“That would be great. But the NCAA told us we can’t
join with just one program. “The NAIA has a new rule as
of about four years ago that immediately drops all teams from
postseason competition if a school makes overtures to another
organization. So if we were to apply to the NCAA, we couldn’t
play in NAIA tournaments for the five to seven years it takes
to go through the NCAA process.
can’t afford that. It would just kill us to sit on the sidelines
Lindenwood hasn’t totally ruled out pursuing NCAA hockey,
but at this point, the issue is not on the front-burner. Most
likely, the NCAA would have to indicate it would be willing to
expedite the five- to seven-year process before Lindenwood would
jump back into the fray.
of our programs are happy with what we’re doing,”
Creer said. “So it’s not a situation where we’re
desperate. We’d have to reach the point where we’re
willing to bite the bullet and sit out to get into the NCAA.”
off the table for now, there are no known teams ready to jump
to Division I to save the CHA. Speculation most likely will center
around successful club programs, such as Navy, Iowa State and
Penn State, and teams in other leagues such as Atlantic Hockey’s
hope the CHA survives and does well,” Serratore said. “This
is just a better place for us.”