July 14, 2011

NMU Board Endorses Possible Move to WCHA

MARQUETTE, Mich. – At its meeting today, Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees endorsed the administration’s recommendation that NMU’s Division I Wildcat hockey program pursue membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) beginning with the 2013-14 season. Northern currently competes in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). Membership in the WCHA would require a formal invitation and vote by that league’s institutions, which has not yet taken place.

This summer’s announcement of two new college hockey league – the Big Ten and National Collegiate Hockey Conferences – will drastically change both the CCHA and the WCHA in 2013-14.  The 11-team CCHA will possibly lose five teams (Miami, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State and possibly Notre Dame) while the 12-team WCHA will lose seven teams (Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota and Wisconsin). 

With the shake up to the CCHA and WCHA conferences, NMU President Les Wong said he asked Wildcat intercollegiate athletics staff and the hockey coaches to consider the benefits of membership in each league, especially since NMU hockey has been a member of both at some point in its history – in the WCHA from 1984-97 and in the CCHA from 1977-78 until 1983-84 and again beginning with the 1997-98 season.  As a WCHA member, NMU won the 1991 regular season conference title and three league tournament titles (1989, ’91 and ’92).  The Wildcats were a WCHA member when they won the 1991 NCAA Championship.

“I felt the schools that will be in the WCHA in 2013-14 share many similarities with Northern,” said Wong.  “We all have similar locations with hometowns that passionately support their hockey programs. We also all offer similar academic offerings and have similar student bodies. We all have strong NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs but a Division I hockey program. Having our hockey team travel west also compliments our recruiting footprint for not just athletics, but the university as a whole.”

Members of the WCHA moving forward in 2013-14 will be Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota-Mankato and St. Cloud State.  Members of the CCHA moving forward are Alaska-Fairbanks, Bowling Green, Lake Superior State and Western Michigan.

"We share many natural rivalries with the new WCHA programs and the league offers geographical balance for us," Interim Athletic Director Steve Reed said about the possible change. "With the changing landscape in college hockey in 2013-14, it is important for us to consider all options and choose the one we feel works best for NMU hockey at this time."

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