Mack’s Mailbag: 3 weeks and counting

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Quite a bold move by Merrimack going D1 across the board. Do you think it will work?
I don’t see why not. It’s not like they’ll be applying to the Big East or the ACC. They’ll be targeting a small conference with similar schools – like Bryant did a few years ago when it made the jump – and the possibilities are endless. Quite frankly, from a cost standpoint, it won’t cost them a lot of money. Depending on the conference, the travel might be a bit more, but outside of the initial cost of making the jump (improving facilities, etc.) it won’t cost them much more money. So from that perspective, it makes sense. They already spend to the max they are allowed in the Northeast-10 from a scholarship standpoint.
I think it makes a lot of sense. Look at hoops, for example. If they’re good enough to win whichever conference they join every 5-6 years, now all of a sudden they’ll have a nationally televised March Madness game against Kansas or Duke on CBS. You can’t buy that sort of publicity. And if they plan on increasing enrollment (which is another part of the strategic plan) Division 1 just makes sense, in my opinion.
The drawbacks are obviously the startup costs. The cost of coaches will increase slightly (I’m assuming there will be added assistants). The travel could cost some more and be a bit more hectic, depending on the conference, but in reality, in the NE-10, they already travel to NY, NH, VT, etc. If they were able to join the Northeast Conference, the travel would be relatively the same.

Why all the changes to the blog?
A few reasons. Honestly, it’s too long a story (and boring) to really bother going through. I switched platforms  (again, for various reasons) and had to change the layout. Then I found out from some readers that it was really buggy, so I made some changes to what we have now, which should finally be OK (please let me know if it isn’t). Because quite frankly, it’s time consuming and I don’t like doing it.

Is the gym big enough for basketball if they went Division 1?
I’m not sure. But I don’t see why basketball couldn’t play at Lawler Arena. Get a floating floor and you could easily host basketball games there. And, if there is a second rink, now hockey has a place to practice when basketball is playing. That seems like a logical route. Either that or some seating is added to the gym.
There will likely have to be some seats added to the football stadium, too. I know there are seating requirements (at least there once was) but what they are, I’m not sure.

Have you ever thought about writing a book?
Yes. Problem is I don’t know about what. If Merrimack won the Hockey East championship last season, I would have written a book on the historic transformation of the program. It’s a Rocky story. I think a “Patriot Reign” type of book following a college hockey program would be interesting. Just knowing the inner workings of what goes on behind the scenes, I think a season chronicled in a book would (hopefully) make a very good story. Maybe one day …

Do you think Bentley could be the next NE-10 team to do Division 1?
I have no idea. Theoretically, they seem like they could make the jump. But I have no idea.

If you saw it, what did you think of the Belichick special on NFL Network?
I did see it, and like most, I was really impressed. Personally, I think he’s a huge historian. He knows the history of the game and knows he has an obvious place in it. He also knows how he is perceived. I think he allowed that series to be made in an effort to shape how he will be remembered in history.
He’s a heck of a coach.
I also think that, at times, he’s incredibly arrogant and inconsiderate of people (yes, the media) that also have jobs to do that he makes extremely difficult. Ultimately it’s his job to win football games and championships and he has certainly won a lot of them. You can’t argue with his success on the field. And maybe it’s just me taking it too personally, but I think it’s extremely inconsiderate to treat the media the way he does sometimes. Why can’t you answer a question?
Last night, during the clip of the conference call before the Denver game, he couldn’t even answer a question about what he saw in Josh McDaniels as a coach. Why not?
The bigger problem is that it rubs off, and a lot of high school coaches now think they’re coaching in the NFL. I covered a high school football game a few years ago where at halftime, a player was walked over to an ambulance and driven away, with the lights on. Everyone saw it. I asked the coach after the game who it was and if he was OK, and got a response “no one was driven off in an ambulance.”
I’m not a huge Jets fan, but Rex Ryan is also a heck of a coach and he is courteous enough to answer a question.
But again, I’m biased.

Do you play Fantasy Football? Any advice? 
Not sure what you’re looking for in terms of advice. You mean for this week?
I do play. I also write a weekly fantasy football column in the E-T that runs on Sundays.

Any update on Notre Dame?
None that I have heard. But I still think Hockey East is a longs shot, based upon who I’ve talked to about it. My personal opinion is that they will join the NCHC. Multiple told me that there was a breakdown between Hockey East and Notre Dame over travel.

How much does it cost to run a Division 1 hockey team?
A lot.
Conservatively, let’s say you have 18 scholarships at $32,000 each (including room and board), so that’s about $576,000 just in players. You add coaches salaries in there and it’s probably closer to $850,000. Then $100,000 (merely a guess, about $3,000 per player) for equipment makes it $950,000. Travel costs and other staff easily pushes it over $1 million, I would think.

Dunkin Donuts or Timmy Ho’s?
Come on! Not fair. Dunkin Donuts only because there are no Timmy’s around here.

Do you take the team bus to away games?
No, I usually drive myself. It has been offered, though, and I know other media members who especially on longer trips will catch a ride. But I like the freedom of driving myself. Those long drives to Amherst (by far, my least favorite drive, even more than Maine or Vermont) are a little easier when you can blast some Metallica or Foo Fighters to and from.


  1. Mike,

    Do you see America East as a logical choice for conference? The league is the non-hockey home to most of Hockey East schools so relationships already exist between the athletic departments. If we are going to put the money and effort into going D1 why not join a league that will place us in competition with schools that are more academically and athletically. No offense to Northeast conference, but from a publicity and PR promotion, it is a lot easier to sell the move if we will be playing the likes of BU and UNH as opposed to it Wagner or Monmouth.

    Now whether AE will have us is another question. But our solid history as a member of Hockey East will certainly help.

  2. Same Commentor as above,

    I forgot to mention that, with the exception of UMBC, America East would likely not impose any additional travel costs compared to NE-10.

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