Minnesota Duluth: A Super League invitee

Minnesota Duluth has been asked to join a discussion of a proposed seven- or eight-team Division I men’s conference, which would likely start in 2013-14, sources indicate.

The conference: UMD, North Dakota, Denver, Colorado College and Nebraska-Omaha of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and Miami University of Oxford, Ohio and Notre Dame of South Bend, Ind., and possibly Western Michigan of Kalamazoo, Mich., all of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

There’s talk that a resolution on a new Super League could come in July or by Labor Day. The current 12-team WCHA already has schedules for the next two seasons.

The restructuring of Division I conferences is being investigated by a number of schools in reaction to the formation of the Big Ten Conference, announced in March. Starting in 2013-14, Wisconsin and Minnesota will leave the WCHA, while Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State will leave the CCHA, and join Penn State in the six-team Big Ten Conference.

While it’s unknown who is leading the charge to form an eight-team Super Conference, Denver and North Dakota are likely candidates. While UMD athletic director Bob Nielson wouldn’t talk specifically Tuesday about a Super Conference, he said his school isn’t standing still.

“We’re concerned about the college hockey landscape. We’re looking at all the options of what could happen,” said Nielson. “Our hockey program is very important to our school and we want to be proactive.

“Our approach is to be active and examine potential opportunities, and have conversations about the future of Division I. Our intent is to be a member of the WCHA, but we’re considering options.”

Speculation about a Super Conference started in April and intensified last week when the Grand Forks Herald reported that North Dakota was weighing options about leaving the WCHA.

Nielson said his views mirror comments made by North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison in the Grand Forks Herald:

“At the end of the day, we have to do what’s in the best interest of North Dakota hockey and that’s what we’re going to do. It’s an emotional decision. It’s a business decision.”

A commitment to Division I hockey appears to be a driving concern of those involved in the Super League talks, which includes keeping a competitive recruiting edge. Improved television exposure and post-season conference playoff revenue are also elements. The WCHA has a five-year handshake agreement to continue its Final Five tournament at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center.

Notre Dame would appear to be a make-or-break player in the deal. Notre Dame, which lost to UMD in the 2011 NCAA semifinals, hasn’t officially said it’s leaving the CCHA, but indicated last month it has had talks with the 10-team Hockey East.

“It’s a possibility,” Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson told the Bangor (Maine) Daily News about a Hockey East membership. “I know our athletic director and associate athletic director are doing their due diligence in looking at all of the alternatives.”

The WCHA added two teams — Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha — in 2010-11 for a 12-team league. Even with the defection of Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Big Ten, it’s likely most WCHA coaches would first opt for a 10-team WCHA.

If a Super League is formed as speculated, the WCHA teams remaining would be Minnesota State-Mankato, St. Cloud State, Michigan Tech, Bemidji State and Alaska Anchorage.

The remaining CCHA teams would be Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Alaska Fairbanks, Lake Superior state and Bowling Green.

18 thoughts on “Minnesota Duluth: A Super League invitee

  1. sounds like a great opportunity for UMD. WCHA may become irrelevant without gophs, badgers, souix etc. Super league would carry some prestige and help with recruiting

  2. Dogfan is dead on. IF CC, UNO, UND, DU bolt the ‘dogs would have to follow. The remaining WCHA would make it very difficult to recruit blue chip players. And another thing I really don’t understand some of the negative comments I’ve seen posted regarding Mr. Neilson. He clearly understands the importance of the men’s hockey program at UMD and this is another example of him looking out for the programs best interest. No question this would be a very competitive conference (if it happens?) but staying in the WCHA if this league is created is not an option.

    • You are spot on regarding Bob Nielson. The serial complainers continue to show up here telling us all about what Bob is failing at, yet the complaints never come to fruition. We heard all about how signing Scott Sandelin better happen yesterday so he does not move on. In due time he signed a new contract. Next it was about signing the assistant coaches to big raises so they never leave. Assistant coaches leave unless they get promoted to head coach, which is where the big raise comes in. Overpaying for AC’s is fools play. Not according to the complainers who are aces at spending other people’s money. Now we are going to here the sideline experts tell us how Bob Nielson is not going to do the right thing for the hockey program when it comes to league affiliation. The guy has continued to make the right moves, on a budget, while overseeing an athletic program that is experiencing success on a level never before seen in Duluth. Yet it is never good enough for the wannabe AD’s. Hope they keep posting though, as it is extremely entertaining.

  3. No offense here but improved TV exposure? Compared to what? Other than Denver, none of these markets are big TV markets. Notre Dame has a big alum base so I guess they would have that potential too but the rest are reside in small markets. I think that is a fallacy to think it is going to be better than current state of things.

  4. This is so important that UMD considers this. This new league would affectively kill any prestige the WCHA has. If UMD is left behind, the program will fall apart. The best players would avoid any team in the leftover league and the fans, many of which have good alternatives in Duluth (good high school hockey), would stop coming. All of this while Amsoil Arena has just opened and the Bulldogs are on top of the college hockey world. I encourage Duluth residents to push the UMD AD to jump into this.

  5. I think this would be the only move UMD can make to stay on the college hockey map. Staying with the likes of BSU, MTU and MSU would be suicide unless you plan to drop to DIII someday. You will never recruit the quality of player like you do now.

    I hate to say it but once the Big10 starts up, they will be the leader in college hockey on TV. More money, more games and more nights to watch.

    And those on the inside of the college hockey world know that UMD is towing an anchor with a football coach as the AD. If they want to keep pace with the big schools, they need an AD for hockey only.

    • Please name one school that has a hockey-only AD so we know who it that you think UMD needs to keep pace with.

      • Bob Nielson is a winner as a coach and administrator, plain and simple. You can’t argue any of his decisions in regards to hockey up to this point. He didn’t overpay for a head coach who despite winning a national championship still has a lifetime record of thirty games below .500. He also understands that the continued success of his football program is tied to the economic success of the men’s hockey program. Without big name universities coming to town the Dog’s won’t fill Amsoil and ALL the athletic programs will suffer. Nielson understands the big picture.

  6. Why not join both the wcha and ccha. I have one huge super conference,which than would allow you to have two divison among the conference which would allow teams to keep there rivals and also let them play against teams that they normal do not play over the course of the year, makes more sense to me…

  7. This is really good news that the BULLDOGS have been included in the talks about the Super League. I hope that Nielson fully engages this process and works wisely to position DULUTH to be a strong presence in college hockey. While this news is good for the BULLDOGS I am not too excited about the overall health of college hockey. There appears to be a creation of the have’s and have not’s. Actually, I like the regional match ups (SCSU, BSU, MTU, Mankato, and the other WCHA teams). Now that Neilson has opened up the wallet we too must support the school!

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  10. What is going to happen to the remaining teams?
    WCHA(UAA, Bemdji, St Cloud, Mankato, and MTU)
    CCHA (UAF, FSU, LSSU, NMU, and Bowling Green)

    I would hope the remaining ten teams would combine.

  11. Horsehockey,
    LEAVE IT ALONE! This all started with Allvarez at Wisconsin trying to find a way to make more money. This is all about the big schools wanting even more, and the little guys will get zilch. The big rich hockey schools will get richer, and likely several small programs will die. (Kind of like American politics!)
    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
    When the smoke clears and the Michigan Techs and Mankato’s and Bemidji’s don’t have hockey any more, will we all be better off? Not likely. College hockey needs MORE teams, not fewer.
    Let Minnesota and Wisconsin leave and leave the rest of the WCHA alone.

  12. For once I have to agree with BBP. The WCHA is the best college hockey league from top to bottom period! Minnesota and Wisconsin seem to think they are going to be in this immediate college hockey elite league. With Ohio State and Penn State I doubt it. If the WCHA stays intact they’ll have no problems.

  13. I do not want this to be a bashing AD Nielson session but I stand by all my previous comments. Nielson must be big picture, proactive with the hockey program and treat his coaching staff well! Recruits recognize solid programs. Again look at (i.e., analyze) how gold standard programs treat their coaches and staffs.

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