CCHA looks to expansion

Bowling Green could have a new rival in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
Alabama-Huntsville is the favorite to join the league and replace Nebraska-Omaha after UNO announced
Friday it’s leaving for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association beginning with the 2010-11 season.
The loss of UNO leaves the CCHA with 11 teams, creating an opening for UAH.
The addition of UNO and Bemijdi State gives the WCHA 12 teams.
UAH and Bemidji needed new homes after the demise of College Hockey America at the end of last season.
Both teams will play as independents next season.
The WCHA already had announced it would admit Bemidji, but only if it could find a 12th member which it
found in UNO.
UNO and the WCHA finally reached an agreement this week for the Mavericks to join the league. UNO’s move
had been widely rumored for some time, but the sides had trouble agreeing on the financial terms.
Had the two sides not been able to reach a deal, the University of Alaska was rumored to be next in line
to move from the CCHA to the WCHA.
If UAH is approved by the CCHA, the league would be back to 12 teams.
UNO has been a member since the 1999-2000 season.
“When we were approached about admission, we took a long look at all aspects of a move to the WCHA,” UNO
athletics director Trev Alberts said in a statement. “In the end, we felt there were many long-term
benefits to our program.”
“We also think a move to the WCHA will further energize our fans,” UNO associate athletics director and
former Mavericks’ head coach Mike Kemp said in a statement. “Many of our road games in the WCHA are
within a relatively easy drive from Omaha.”
Traditionally, independents have a tough time putting together a schedule and earning at-large berths to
the NCAA playoffs. The CCHA and the WCHA both want an even number of teams because it makes for easier
and more balanced scheduling.
CCHA member Northern Michigan originally was considering a return to the WCHA, but announced in the
spring it would remain in the CCHA.
If UAH isn’t accepted by the CCHA, the program probably will die. CCHA officials visited UAH earlier this
month.
“At this time, it serves no purpose to speculate on how this latest decision will impact the future
makeup of CCHA membership,” CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said in a statement. “There is a process being
followed with respect to admittance of any new member and we are committed to following that process
through to completion.”
BG coach Scott Paluch has been in favor of the CCHA admitting UAH and the WCHA taking Bemidji ever since
it became clear last season the CHA would not survive.
“I want Huntsville to be alive and in an established league,” Paluch said.
UAH was 5-20-4 overall and 3-11-4 in College Hockey America last season, but advanced to the NCAA
playoffs in 2007 where it lost in double overtime to Notre Dame.
The Chargers’ head coach is former BG assistant coach Danton Cole.
UAH’s program dates back to the 1979-80 season and the Chargers have been a Division I member since the
1998-99 season. UAH was a Division II power before that division ended, forcing the school to move up to
Division I.
“I believe they could remain a viable Division I program,” Paluch said.
Paluch said BG’s trip to UAH would be similar to a trip to Lake Superior or NMU.
But Lake Superior, NMU and perhaps Ferris State are believed to be unhappy about the possibility of
adding another long trip to the schedule.
“For as long as they’ve been able to sustain a program, we need to keep them going,” Paluch said of UAH.
“If UAH is able to sustain and keep a program, maybe 15 years from now, that could prove to be impetus
for more programs down south to have hockey.
“If you’re any type of school and you can see UAH bringing in Big 10 schools like Michigan and Michigan
State, it might be an idea that could take people into long-term expansion of our sport.”