April 27, 2005; UPDATED: April 29, 2005
CHA Pursues Replacement for Air Force

By James Jahnke, Nate Ewell and Mike Eidelbes

With College Hockey America’s future in doubt, the conference’s athletic directors have approved an aggressive plan to pursue a new member, including financial incentives worth more than $250,000 over the first three years of the new school’s tenure in the CHA.

The incentive package was approved at the recent conference meetings in Naples, Fla., and the conference announced the plan in a Friday press release.

"We felt it was in the best interests for the continued growth and development of college hockey that we take a proactive approach toward expansion," said commissioner Bob Peters. "As we prepare to host the Frozen Four (St. Louis in 2007) and to build on our position in collegiate hockey, our athletic directors felt strongly that an incentive package would encourage growth."

With Air Force leaving the CHA for Atlantic Hockey beginning in the 2006-07 season, the CHA is in jeopardy of losing its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The CHA must have a sixth member in place by 2008-09 in order to maintain its automatic bid.

Because of those time constraints, it’s unlikely that a new varsity program or a Division III program elevated to Division I would be the CHA’s answer. Instead, the league would have to target an existing program in another conference.

Sources tell Inside College Hockey that several potential new members were discussed in Naples. They range from potential fits in Atlantic Hockey – Canisius or Mercyhurst – to smaller schools in the more established conferences – Merrimack in Hockey East or Ferris State or Lake Superior State in the CCHA. These schools either could not be reached for comment or would not confirm that they were either considering or had been approached regarding the CHA's offer.

Before the coaches' convention, Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin discounted the possibility of a move by the Lakers.

"We've never had any discussion about our men's team going to the CHA," he said at the time (Mercyhurst's women are members of the CHA). "We like where Atlantic Hockey is going, and at the same time, we'd love to see the CHA continue to grow. We're on the record for wanting the full 18 scholarships, but this is a little bigger than just one issue. We're content where we're at."

Club programs that could be considered include Iowa State (those not in the mix include Lindenwood, which told Inside College Hockey recently that upgrading its program is not an option at this time, and Navy, which is all but assured of joining Atlantic Hockey if its program is elevated to varsity status).

"(The) subject (of going varsity) has not been broached for about six years," said Dr. Alan Murdoch, head coach of the Iowa State club team. "If it is going to happen, it is going to be by money backers, and that number is starting to grow. Nothing's planned or anticipated today, to my knowledge."

The financial package the CHA is offering consists of $50,000 to the school for each of the first three years that it spends in the league, plus a waiver of league dues and the league’s $100,000 initiation fee. The CHA also promises a share of league revenues and scheduling considerations to its potential new members.

"We feel strongly that with the automatic bid our champion receives to the NCAA tournament, the commitment of our institutions to the long-term success of hockey, and the proximity of our universities, that this combination of incentives will be attractive," Peters added. "We will move quickly on adding an additional program to our conference."

Send this to a friend

About Us | Advertiser Info | Site Map | Privacy Policy
© 2002-2005 Inside College Hockey, Inc., All Rights Reserved