Sunday, July 10, 2011

The History of Why This Happened...

There's a lot of blame being tossed around for this mess: Penn State, the Big Ten, DU, North Dakota, even somehow UAA I bet. But to get sense of why this is happening you need to go back further to 1993.


So what happened in 1993? Well besides being the year that UAA joined the WCHA it's also the year the new Mariucci Arena opened at Minnesota. It had everything a college hockey program could've wanted and more, a huge locker room with a players lounge, weight rooms, offices, comfortable seating for fans, and the largest capacity in college hockey; over 9,000 fans. It was never before seen in college hockey and it set a trend for the future.

If you look at the arenas teams in the WCHA played in in 1992 it would probably shock some of the newer, younger fans. Minnesota played in a small section of Williams Arena built into a hockey rink in the 1950s, DU played in an old naval drill they got surplus in the 40s (with a nice rainbow painted in the 70s), North Dakota in the old Ralph Engelstad Arena a ho hum 6000 seater of years past, CC played in the Broadmoor World Arena, which was converted into an ice rink in 1938 from an old riding academy, and Wisconsin in the 8000 plus Dane County Coliseum with ample beer gardens and not much else. St. Cloud had the newest building with the National Hockey Center that opened 1989, the next newest was Michigan Tech with the MacInnes opening in 1972.

But with the new Mariucci opening up suddenly Minnesota had a real edge in recruiting and, most importantly, revenue potential. Now all the other schools in the WCHA were playing catch up. CC pushed construction on the World Arena (opening in 1998), DU worked to get Magness built (opening in 1999), Wisconsin first tried to renovate the Dane before deciding to build the 15000 seat Kohl Center in 1998, still the largest in college hockey.

In 2001, never to be outdone and not wanting to see his alma mater languish in a shoddy 6000 seater, millionaire casino owner, NoDak alum, and Nazi enthusiast Ralph Engelstad spent $110 million to build UND the finest arena in college hockey, complete with granite floors, leather seating, and team facilities that NHL teams wish they had.

Arena building had become a dick measuring contest out west in the college hockey world. Schools poured millions into it. Schools had to have bigger, better, nicer or they wouldn't be able to compete. Mankato, Bemidji, Duluth, even UAA knew they needed that new arena to even come close. With bigger and better seating you could pack in fans and charge them plenty. With those luxury boxes you could woo corporate money and high price boosters. With nicer locker rooms and training facilities you could attract those blue chip recruits who may have run off to the CHL.

And that's where the next dick measuring contest was: recruiting. Before the 90s college hockey was mainly American and Canadian kids with little to no chance at the NHL (if you weren't in the Q, the O, or the W you weren't in the NHL unless you were really really good). With the rise of the USNTDP teams needed those big facilities to attract the draft picks that were being churned out, not only to keep the players happy but to keep Oshawa and Kelowna away too. Now it became about how many draft picks you had on your team, no draft picks meant no chances of winning.

So when Penn State announces their formation (and their nice arena to go with it), everybody knows the Big Ten Hockey Conference is coming. So when the schools that spent millions on new arenas just to keep up with the Big Ten schools, saw the Big Ten schools running off towards bigger money, bigger exposure, and bigger recruiting advantages without them, they panicked. All that money they spent on bigger, better, nicer would be wasted, they thought, unless they did something drastic...

They had to cut the fat out of the meat. The only way to keep up would be to form a new league with only those schools that had these facilities, the ones that had the blue chip recruits, the ones that, if the banded together, could have the exposure needed to keep up.

It remains to be seen if this whole adventure will work for those involve or whether it'll be a big disaster. But if you're mad about this and need to blame somebody, don't blame Penn State, don't blame Barry Alvarez, don't blame DU or NoDak (although you can call them backstabbers), blame Mariucci Arena and the others that were built to keep up with it if you have to. But reality is, as hard as it is to accept, this was coming. The actions from these schools is nothing different from they've done in the past. The only thing to do now is to survive, adapt, and overcome.

15 comments:

444 said...

Nice article.

Matt Dresens said...

the best "Super Conference" article I've read

Alaskana said...

Excellent article! And dare I say it paints perhaps the best argument I've seen yet for UAA needing to build a new hockey arena (even though I know that was not the intent of your article). You should submit this to the ADN as a compass piece.. really, it's that good.

This should be required reading for anyone who has or will have a role in getting the new hockey arena built, and why UAA (and UAF) are going to be marginalized as a hockey teams until they get the arenas they need to compete.

Anonymous said...

Good article, all true.

But you also need to remember that this 'arms race' (or 'dick measuring') is happening all over college sports, as schools try to outdo each other for recruits, exposure and fundraising.

And when some schools can't keep pace with the big dogs, they drop by the wayside.

This all about protecting investment...

Jimjamesak said...

Anon 10:29, that's what I was thinking as well. When I started looking at things this was just no different than what has happened in the past or other college sports. It just sort of evolves from different methods as people get caught or stuff becomes so common. It makes me wonder if all the kids in the USNTDP will be driving sports cars in the near future...

Jimjamesak said...

Thank you very much Matt. I sometimes get jealous of how college hockey is out east. I've been to a few of the arenas but not for any games. I hope one of these days I can.

Jason said...

Northern Michigan is WCHA bound, and UAF (with an upcoming $3.5 mil remodel of the Carlson Center) might be next, according to CHN.

http://www.collegehockeynews.com/news/2011/07/11_nmu_in_talks_to_return_to.php

Matt Dresens said...

http://buhockeyblog.blogspot.com/2011/07/super-conference.html

arcticfox said...

Did anyone here catch the conference that was reportedly viewable on-line? If so, anything to report?

Thanks!

Donald Dunlop said...

It's on Wednesday.

arcticfox said...

Thanks DD! ♥

I think it would be awesome if Dr. Cobb was willing to participate in a 1-hour chat with fans on here before the upcoming season.

If we could figure out a way to arrange it, I'll bet we'd get enough fans here to make it worth his while.

Knowing him, he'd agree to it. (Just my hunch though) ;)

I know.. I know.. Donald is thinking that I've finally gone off the deep end, right? :p

Donald Dunlop said...

We'll have to arrange something like that. I have no doubts he'd be agreeable.

Anonymous said...

Cobb has a lot of answering to do, with the lack of a hockey arena and apparently being caught with his pants down regarding the conference disintegration. He may be a nice guy but he is not a very strong leader for an athletic director. Most schools AD's wield more power. Either he is truely spineless or his position is like that of a leader of a Banana Republic.

Donald Dunlop said...

Or you don't fully understand the hierarchy and division of responsibilities within UAA?

Or haters gotta hate?

dggoddard said...

Very good article.

Plenty of blame to go around.

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