And the waiting game continues in the CCHA. The CCHA representatives meeting is going on the early part of this week, and many expected Notre Dame to make their future plans public at the meeting, thus starting the 2nd (or 3rd if you will) shift of dominoes to fall in the vastly changing scope of college hockey. Notre Dame did announce something, that they still don't know what they are doing, and that furthermore, the announcement could take at least another week MINIMUM.
So what does that mean for the MAC schools with hockey programs?
Well Miami is nice and set in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) along with the 5 powerhouses from the WCHA. The only thing they have to do is just sit back and see if they get company in that newly created conference.
What about Bowling Green and Western Michigan?
To the jump we go. . .Western Michigan has publicly stated that they will most likely follow Notre Dame's decision to create a rivalry with the Irish. Great, so what does Notre Dame want to do?
The Irish have stated that they have 5 options. I'll give you a moment to facepalm if you'd like. The options would be to either join this new "power conference" with Miami, join the Ivy League schools in the ECAC, join fellow Catholic school Boston College in the Hockey East, stay in the CCHA and be basically one of two powers with Western (if WMU stays), or go independent like the good ole days.
OK? So what does that do for the two other MAC schools?
Bowling Green is stuck in the CCHA and whatever they choose to do. Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State are gone to the B1G Ten Hockey Conference. Northern Michigan is gone to the WCHA, and Alaska is being poached also by the WCHA. If Notre Dame and Western leave (which is almost certain) then the CCHA is left with only 3 teams, and has basically only two options to stay "alive", only one of them probably let them keep their name.
Option A - The CCHA branches out to the Atlantic Hockey schools that want more to offer more scholarships. Those schools? Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagra, and Robert Morris. Not exactly powerhouses, but it saves the sinking ship. Atlantic Hockey only allows 12 scholarships, CCHA allows 18, so the CCHA has the goods here. With 7 schools, the CCHA keeps their name, their automatic qualifier in the NCAA tournament, and for the meantime, saves themselves.
Option B - The CCHA can't get the Atlantic Hockey schools and merges with the WCHA, creating a 10 team conference. Since the WCHA would be the larger conference, they would probably take the name and everything else. However, the schools in the CCHA would stay alive. If the merger occurs, there is the possibility that the Atlantic Hockey schools still could join the CCHA/WCHA, or that both Options A and B could occur together.
So that is what lies ahead for Bowling Green. What about Western Michigan?
Well, since they depend on what Notre Dame does, they play the waiting game. They have been approached by the NCHC about future plans, so they could go that route by themselves if they wanted. Personally, I don't see Western or Notre Dame joining the Ivy schools in the ECAC. It's not that much of a "power" conference, but does produce a couple good teams. I also don't see these schools staying in the CCHA. It'll be too weak of a conference to stay competitive, and recruiting will take a hit, especially for Western.
So that just leaves indepencency, the NCHC, and Hockey East. What does each bring?
- Independent - If Notre Dame goes independent, it will be because they want the newly announced TV contract from VS/NBC Sports Network for themselves. I honestly don't see Western following suit and hoping that FSDetroit picks up their games if the aforementioned Option B occurs and leaves FSDetroit without anyone to "contractually" televise. Western would probably join Miami in the NCHC, with another school not yet named (I think Lake Superior State from the CCHA). Notre Dame becomes their football selves in hockey and everyone in the college hockey world asks the same stupid question, "Which conference will Notre Dame join?"
- NCHC - Simple, Western follows suit and the 8 team "Mega-conference" rivals all others in pure brute strength of teams. While not all 8 teams will get in every year, these 8 teams should be some of the top teams in terms of pure greatness, even if the records wont show it.
- Hockey East - Big question will be if Western Michigan will follow. They probably will, since their fans traveled well in the CCHA Championship and NCAA tournament games last season. This conference would be greatly increased in power, already consisting with the likes of Boston College, Boston University, and Maine, all have won at least 2 titles each since 1993 (Boston College has 3). With New Hampshire (who knocked out Miami) and Merrimack also having good years last year, this conference would be the top conference, though not by the margin the NCHC would be if ND and WMU went that route.
But for now, we wait. These changes wouldn't take hold until the 2013-14 season, at the earliest, but as Bob Dylan wrote, "The times they are a-changin' ".
Indeed they are.