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Have you seen this movie before?

College hockey's drama is nothing new

July 25, 2011
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

Has anyone else been experiencing a little bit of deja vu this summer in college hockey?

It's like when you walk into a theatre to see a new movie starring someone like Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell or Adam Sandler, and walk out asking yourself, "Why did I just pay eight bucks to watch Billy Madison for the 10th time?"

The names and places are different, but in the end, it's the same group of actors portraying the same characters in an eerily similar plot.

That my friends is NCAA Division I athletics ... or Happy Gilmour.

Don't believe me? Do you find this summer's saga in college hockey to be unique?

Try reading what ESPN's Pat Forde wrote in June of 2010, and no, Forde is not a fortune teller.

"Armageddon was coming. Then it wasn't.

Deals were done. Then they weren't.

Conferences were expanding, contracting, staying the same, going away, making comebacks.

After an absurd few weeks of news and non-news, it's time to declare the winners and losers of the silly season that was realignment mania."

Very well said Pat. Besides being ready to declare winners and losers - because the college hockey carousel will continue to spin for months to come - you described this off season perfectly.

One problem, Forde wasn't predicting the future of college hockey. He was summing up 2010's drama in college football.

Last summer the NCAA did the BCS shuffle with Nebraska landing in the Big Ten, Colorado and Utah bolting to the Pac-10 and Boise State moved to the Mountain West. among other moves.

Notre Dame held the sport hostage before doing nothing - that's not happening in college hockey - and Texas did the same. The Longhorns flirted with everyone under the sun but in the end, extorted millions from the rest of the Big 12 an stayed put.

Missouri thought it was bigger than it was and in the end, it too remained in the Big 12. It got to stay with Texas like it wanted, but lost more than just millions of dollar. The Tigers lost their credibility.

I wonder if Western Michigan remembers this story?

College football armageddon was fun to watch, but even in 2010, I got the same feeling I got this summer. I swore I saw this all before.

Oh yeah, now I remember - when college basketball inspired realignment in 2004 and 2005.

That year, the ACC raided the Big East, which among others cherry picked from a growing power in Conference USA, which then plundered a bunch of other smaller conferences.

From 2004-05, 24 schools in nine-plus leagues were affected. Over 15 schools were affected by the 2010 reshuffling initially, but that has since expanded to over 20 schools as the ripple effects continue to this day.

Conference realignment in the NCAA used to take place because of necessity, like in 1996 when the Southwest Conference disbanded following its institutions' numerous recruiting violations and the wake of Southern Methodist University's death penalty in 1987.

In 1996, 23 teams and eight leagues were effected, and not a single move was made because it guaranteed better TV ratings.

Times have changed as we've all learned in college hockey. Regional rivalries and tradition no longer dictate the sport. TV ratings and the all mighty dollar rule the day.

When the dust finally settles, up to 22 schools and six different leagues will be effected directly and unlike the shakeups in '96, '04-'05, and 2010, only one sport is being thrown into turmoil.

The NCAA takes a selective approach of when to be hands on and when to be hands off. The NCAA seems to take a sick pleasure in controlling student-athlete's lives, but runs and hides when it comes to controlling its schools - whether it be conference affiliation, football bowl games or major recruiting violations.

The NCAA needs to play a roll in where its members institutions play.

It made sense for the Big Ten to start its own hockey league using its own members once Penn State joined the sport. It's also hard to blame a cash-strapped Northern Michigan University for bolting to a league that not only makes financial and geographical sense, but contains its top rival in Michigan Tech.

The National Collegiate Hockey Conference, however, is nothing but a thoughtless and selfish move by six schools who care only about themselves. It does little for the sport.

Could the NCAA have stopped this train wreck? Probably not, but it could have at least put on the breaks and allowed everyone to properly evaluate how its formation will effect the sport.

Since the NCAA won't step up to the puck anytime soon, it's now up to WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, CCHA commissioner Fred Pletsch and Atlantic Hockey commissioner Bob DeGregorio to sit down and do what's best for college hockey's future.

The CCHA should send Alaska to the WCHA while Atlantic Hockey as a 12-team league can afford to give the CCHA Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, Niagara and Canisius if those four schools truly desire to play with the full 18 scholarships - AH only allows 12.

And it's time for the CCHA to step up as well and welcome Alabama-Huntsville before they go the way of Wayne State.

As Brandon Veale pointed out a few weeks ago, college hockey used to be different than basketball and football. Unlike them, college hockey took care of its own.

Unfortunately this summer, all the sport has shown is that it can be just as selfish, if not more than the pigskin and bouncy ball.



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