Division 3 hockey in Wisconsin getting a shake up
I'll admit I don't know bupkus about D-3 hockey, but this week the five UW system schools that are a part of the NCHA have announced they'll be breaking away and forming their own conference. This is both in men's and women's hockey.
The schools are UW-Eau Claire, UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior and UW-Stout and they'll be starting the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Hockey Conference.
On the men's side, that leaves just two teams left in the NCHA - St. Norbert in Green Bay and St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN. Apparently the UW schools have said they'll discuss adding St. Norbert to their party, but will not be extending that offer to St. Scholastica. The info I saw doesn't really saw was St. Scholastica will do - clearly they'll have to find another conference, but since the midwest is so strong in hockey, there aren't a lot of other Division 3 schools in the area. Even the tiny Minnesota schools are D1. If the new conference doesn't accept St. Norbert, they'll be in the same boat.
Clearly they can't play a two-team conference, additionally they would be far below the seven team's mandated by the NCAA to get a post-season auto-bid.
However, the things I read also didn't touch on what the new Wisconsin conference would do about the auto-bid situation. Even if they "allow" St. Norbert in, they're just at six schools. Lack of an auto-bid is a huge deterrent - I'm not sure why anyone would want to join a conference in that situation.
The UW schools say they made the move for budgetary reasons - I really wish someone would ask for an explanation of that. Wouldn't starting a brand new conference be much more expensive?!
The worst part about this is that St. Norbert, who may be on the outside looking in, is the defending National Champion and just recently won their 13th regular-season NCHA title.
Sure seems like the UW teams might be experiencing sour grapes and are looking to get themselves out from St. Norbert's shadow.
St. Norbert is, predictably, reeling. They don't know where they'll end up and they're not ready to give up on the NCHA. Despite the two members, sounds like St. Norbert might try to poach some other schools and keep their conference going.
Despite the fact that I don't have much stake in D3 hockey, this is certainly an interesting story and I can't wait to see how it plays out.