The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is splitting apart again.
The seven departing teams – Bemidji State, Minnesota State Mankato, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan – announced Tuesday that they will form the Central College Hockey Association beginning in the 2021-22 season.
“It’s been inspiring to lead this group as it is comprised of institutions rich in history and tradition, with a strong commitment to academic and athletic excellence,” said Dr. Morris Kurtz, who has been the lead consultant in the realignment. “As noted from inception, they have a real vision for where they are going with the new league, as they focus on improving regional alignment while building natural rivalries and enhancing the student-athlete and fan experience.”
USCHO.com reported in June that the schools were considering forming a new NCAA Division I conference, with Kurtz saying the new league would “focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint.
“The potential new conference is also committed to providing the best possible collegiate hockey experience for its student-athletes, fans, and all stakeholders.”
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The CCHA previously operated from 1971 through 2013, when Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State left for the Big Ten, Miami and Western Michigan joined the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, and Notre Dame went to Hockey East. College Hockey News reported that Bowling Green always retained the CCHA trademark.
“After extensive discussion and significant due diligence, it made sense to everyone involved to move in this direction,” Kurtz said of taking up the CCHA name. “The name conveys the current geographic alignment of our members and the CCHA brand has a tremendous amount of equity and goodwill associated with it. What’s old is new again and we look forward to refreshing the brand and identity to fully capture the energy and passion of the institutions it represents.”
Kurtz says the next steps are to develop branding, logos while searching for a conference commissioner. He also said the CCHA would be open to adding more member schools.
The WCHA, which was able to survive through the creation of the Big Ten, will have to try to do so again. The realignment to the CCHA doesn’t include three of the current WCHA members, as University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville were not mentioned in the release. The Anchorage Daily News reported in November that Alabama-Huntsville had submitted a letter of withdrawal to the WCHA.
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“While the current configuration has had its advantages, UAF, the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alabama Huntsville have been financially disadvantaged in this conference, and a realignment may benefit all three universities in the long run,” Alaska Fairbanks chancellor Dan White said in June. “We are encouraged that there are a number of teams looking now, or will be looking soon, to join an NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey conference. While disappointed, in our WCHA colleagues’ decision to leave, we look forward to the chance that lies ahead for building new partnerships.”