Seven of the WCHA’s 10 schools have announced they are “exploring” the creation of a new conference, which would begin play in 2021-22. The seven schools include all except for the two Alaska schools, and Alabama-Huntsville — i.e. Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State, and Northern Michigan.
The schools have employed Morris Kurtz a consultant and a spokesperson for the effort. Kurtz was the athletic director at St. Cloud State for many years, including during the school’s transition from the WCHA to the NCHC.
There have long been rumblings are various schools discussing a new conference, trying to create something more geographically appropriate, and help with growing travel costs. Obviously, the costs involved with going to places like Alaska and Huntsville are part of the issue.
Many of the discussions, as informal as they’d been so far, involved a variety of Atlantic Hockey schools, such as ones close to the Midwest like Merchyhurst and Robert Morris. But nothing had yet come to pass.
This announcement, therefore, came as somewhat of a surprise, just based on the timing and the clear indictment of the Alaska/Huntsville situation.
According to the news release, the schools “have independently submitted formal Letters of Notice to the conference office, initiating the withdrawal process in accordance with WCHA Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. The institutions will continue to play in the WCHA during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons.”
The Alaska schools remain on precarious ground either way — the latest news coming this week as Governor Mike Dunleavy vetoed over $400 million from the state’s proposed budget, including over $100 million marked for the state university system, a move that could effectively kill athletics at Fairbanks and Anchorage.
Huntsville is in a different boat, having recently announced plans for a new hockey arena that was expected to spearhead the program towards great competitiveness.
None of the parties involved, including WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson, could yet be reached for comment.