Minnesota State’s hopes of getting admitted into the National Collegiate Hockey Conference are on hold, at least for now.
On Wednesday, the NCHC announced that its board of directors has decided not to expand its membership.
Minnesota State, which currently is a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, announced in mid-July that it had applied to the NCHC for the 2018-19 season. Arizona State also applied to the NCHC.
“After careful consideration and a thorough vetting process, the (NCHC) Board of Directors announced the conference will not move forward with membership expansion at this time,” NCHC commissioner Josh Fenton said in an official statement. “We will continue to be attentive to the college hockey landscape and any future changes that may come. However, our focus right now is guided by what we can do to strengthen our current membership into the future.”
Through the athletic department’s official Twitter feed, Minnesota State announced:
“Officials at Minnesota State acknowledge information released earlier this afternoon by the (NCHC) regarding membership expansion. At this time Minnesota State declines any comment regarding the NCHC’s statement."
Minnesota State was seeking to rejoin six former WCHA members who left the league in 2013 for the new NCHC: Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota and St. Cloud State. Miami and Western Michigan are the other NCHC members.
In its application Minnesota State touted its success over the last four seasons under coach Mike Hastings, major improvements to the Verizon Wireless Center’s hockey facilities and strong administrative support qualities that might make the Mavericks an attractive ninth or 10th member of the NCHC. Also, Mankato is as close to the geographic center of the NCHC as any city in the six states represented by the league.
Minnesota State is one of two Minnesota schools in the WCHA, along with Bemidji State. The other members are Alabama Huntsville, Alaska (Fairbanks), Alaska Anchorage, Bowling Green (Ohio), Ferris State (Mich.), Lake Superior State (Mich.), Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan.
The future of the two Alaska schools is in doubt due to a budget crisis at the University of Alaska system. Options under consideration include cutting one or both hockey programs. There was some speculation Wednesday that the situation in Fairbanks and Anchorage might have been one of the reasons the NCHC decided top put expansion on pause.
What does this mean for Minnesota State and Arizona State going forward? For MSU, nothing really changes right now. The Mavericks were set to stay in the WCHA — where they have done quite well in the conference realignment era — for at least the next two seasons. ASU is a team without a league. The Sun Devils were an NCAA team for the first time last season and have been exploring their options. The Big Ten announced it was not interested in ASU as an affiliate member, and now the NCHC has opted not to expand. The WCHA had been pursuing Arizona State in the past. Is that still an option?