I suppose my hope that I could nearly completely ignore the College Hockey world this summer was, well, misguided. Time to talk about the elephant in the room I guess...
First the recap:
1. Penn State will be joining the Division I rank in 2012-13. That season they will play as an Independent.
2. 2013-14 the mess begins. Minnesota and Wisconsin will the leave the WCHA, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State will the CCHA and join Penn State in the new Big Ten (Eleven, Twelve, whatever) Conference.
3. Now, reportedly, North Dakota, Denver, Minnesota-Duluth, Colorado College, and Nebraska-Omaha will leave the WCHA in 2013-14 to form a new conference with Miami (the Ohio one) and possibly Notre Dame from the CCHA (and at one point Western Michigan, however WMU seems to be out of this now) to form a new "Super Conference" (known as the ButtHurt Hockey Conference around these parts or BHHC for short). The announcement is expected sometime next week.
This discussion wasn't really a new thing. Penn State had announced in the fall they were joining up and the speculation started. The Big Ten Hockey Conference at that point was inevitability, the money was too much to ignore, even for Minnesota with their kicking and screaming. It was something that would've hurt the WCHA and CCHA but not killed either them, the big moneymakers would be gone but the core of competitiveness would have remained. This is where the panic from DU and NoDak comes in. They believe (to some rightly, to some wrongly) that without Minnesota and Wisconsin their recruiting, their exposure, and their money will be gone, so the idea is to join the remaining "power" schools together in an effort to increase exposure, keep recruiting levels consistent, and, of course, keep the money coming in. Miami was doing a similar thing in the CCHA.
This effort, for the most part, got it's legs from the constant posting about it at the LetsGoDU Blog (and who's writer is jumping for joy right now). Nobody else ever thought any of it until the paper in Grand Forks, citing "confirmed sources", brought the news that this was a real possibility. (Link Here) More news was reported on the potential breakup but nobody was officially speaking, nobody knew what was really going on beyond speculation and "confirmed sources". The ADN was silent, even Woody's blog, until this article came out yesterday.
What is surprising in all of this is the fact that the one to spill the beans and be the first to comment is Dr. Cobb. Dr. Cobb has always been the one to never comment, on the record at least, until the official announcement is made. However the comments that were made are not surprising and points to the level of antipathy between the remaining schools and the breakaways. "I blame everybody for being less than honest with their own league members. It's a really sneaky back-door deal." isn't holding any punches back (beyond the levels of good taste). Dr. Cobb will be taking some heat for having this happen on his watch but really nothing could've been done to prevent this, if DU and UND wanted to go UAA couldn't stop them and they certainly weren't taking UAA with them. At the very least the breakaway schools could've been upfront about this and helped make the transition process easier on all counts. The antipathy would've been lessened and arrangements could've been made for scheduling and the like.
The biggest revelation in all this was the plan by the WCHA to extend invitaions to Notre Dame and Miami to join, a 100% vote according to Cobb. Had this happened the CCHA would've been gutted and left the remaining schools in serious trouble, UAF included. I suppose those of us in WCHA leftover group shouldn't be too upset about being left out when we planned the same to the CCHA. It also speaks to an idea that remaining schools had a plan to continue on together but also gives more light to the "back stabbing" by the breakaway schools. Seemingly all of us thought the BHHC ideas were just wild speculation and the remaining schools we're given that as well.
In the end the biggest question is where does UAA go from here? For this I stand by my earlier statement that all UAA needs is a conference with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and they'll be fine. For the most part, any new conference that UAA ends up in will be wide open, wide wide open. This can only mean new and better chances for success. More success can lead to better attendance, more money, better facilities etc. It sucks for the hockey fan like me to not see Minnesota and like but to see UAA successful would be nice.
In the end it's a crappy situation and the way it came about is infuriating. This isn't over, the rest of the schools need to figure out a way to get everybody into a conference and keep everybody relatively happy. It's going to be tough but it can happen, common sense just needs to, finally, break out.