January 6, 2004
Final Year For Findlay
Oilers to drop program, leave CHA with five members

By Nate Ewell and Mike Eidelbes

Findlay will drop its varsity men's hockey program at the end of this season, the school announced Tuesday afternoon, confirming what sources had told Inside College Hockey Tuesday morning.

Budget constraints were the primary reason for the decision, according to Findlay president DeBow Freed.

"The hockey program has brought many good features to the campus, the city of Findlay, and the area," Freed said. "Hockey players and coaches have represented the University well. It would be great if the program could be continued; unfortunately, it cannot."

"We did what we could to make hockey a successful program here at The University of Findlay," said Athletic Director Steven Rackley. "Considering our current academic push and the economic impact hockey had on our University, it became clear that we needed to make this change."

The loss of the Oilers' program will leave just five teams in College Hockey America. If the CHA is unable to lure a sixth team into the fold, it would lose its automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The 2003-04 Findlay Oilers – the last team in the school's hockey history.

The CHA formed prior to the 1999-2000 season, and initially featured seven members – Air Force, Alabama-Huntsville, Army, Bemidji State, Findlay, Niagara and Wayne State. Army departed after the inaugural season to join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (now Atlantic Hockey), leaving the CHA with six members – the minimum to qualify for an NCAA automatic bid. The conference received its first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament last year, with Wayne State earning the invitation by winning the CHA Tournament.

The loss of Findlay could contribute to what will likely be a turbulent off-season for college hockey conference affiliations. Vermont has applied for membership in Hockey East and, if accepted, the ECAC may turn to the Atlantic Hockey ranks to add a 12th member. The CHA may look to the same group of schools for a sixth member to maintain its NCAA Tournament automatic bid. Meanwhile, Robert Morris will join the Division I ranks next season, and the Pittsburgh, Pa., school has yet to determine its conference affiliation.

Findlay is the third school in two years to drop its hockey program, following Fairfield and Iona last season. The loss of Findlay and the addition of Robert Morris would leave 58 teams playing Division I men's hockey nationwide.

After three years of competing at the Division II level, Findlay joined Division I with the formation of the CHA in 1999-2000. The Oilers have won 10 or 11 games in each of their first four full seasons in Division I.

Findlay stands 4-13-3 this season and 1-4-1 in the CHA, good for fourth place in the conference. The Oilers, playing under first-year head coach Pat Ford, secured the biggest win in the program's young history in the season opener, beating Michigan State 4-3 in East Lansing. Ford, an assistant coach with the Oilers last year, took over the head coaching job about a month before the season following the resignation of Craig Barnett.

The Oilers' last three games have all been near-upsets as well. They lost 3-1 at North Dakota despite holding a 1-0 lead in the third period, tied Brown 1-1, and lost at Notre Dame, 1-0. Findlay travels to Alabama-Huntsville to face the Chargers this Saturday and Sunday in a CHA series.

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