UPDATED – Bemidji State Among 7 WCHA Men’s Hockey Programs Exploring Creation of New Conference
Bemidji State is one of seven WCHA men’s hockey schools that have announced the exploration of a new Division I men’s hockey conference that would begin play with the 2021-22 season. This was announced today in a press release by Bemidji State Athletics.
The other six schools are Bowling Green State University, Ferris State University, Lake Superior State University, Michigan Technological University, Minnesota State Mankato, and Northern Michigan University. These are seven of the ten schools that play men’s hockey in the WCHA. The three schools not apart of the announced exploration are the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the University of Alaska Anchorage, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
In the press release, the seven schools are described as “like-minded in their goals and aspirations for the potential new league with a focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint”.
Spokesman Dr. Morris Kurtz, the spokesperson for the seven schools, did not single-out geography as the reason these schools chose to form this group.
“These seven institutions just felt that they were like-minded in any number of certain ways and felt that they could provide the best experience for their student-athletes academically and athletically by moving forward in this manner,” Kurtz said in a phone interview.
The press release goes on to say that the group plans to establish itself as “an elite hockey conference that would have the highest standards for overall competitiveness and rigorous non-conference scheduling.”
It says that the conference would have “a level of institutional investment that demonstrates significant commitment to their hockey programs and facilities.”
As for the three schools left on the outside looking in, Kurtz says it’s a matter for all of college hockey to keep DI men’s college hockey at those three schools.
“It’s a question for all of college hockey,” says Kurtz. “How should the 60 Division I college hockey playing institutions look out for each other going forward? That is a great question for all of college hockey, not just one particular group of institutions.”
The move puts into question the long-standing rivalry between Bemidji State and Alabama-Huntsville. Kurtz says that matter is best determined by Bemidji State.
“That question is, of course, best addressed by the individual institution, but certainly you have conference and non-conference games,” says Kurtz.
WCHA President and Men’s League Commissioner Bill Robertson issued a statement, in part saying that “while this news is disappointing, the WCHA will work to assure that any members that do withdraw do so in accordance with WCHA Bylaws.”
According to the press release, the schools have independently submitted formal Letter of Notice to the WCHA conference office, initiating the withdrawal process in accordance with WCHA Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.
The schools will continue to play in the WCHA during the next two seasons.
The WCHA has existed in its current composition since the 2013-14 hockey season.