In unveiling men's hockey plans, Big Ten proposes schedule arrangement with WCHA

The most compelling aspect of the new Big Ten Conference for men's hockey may be how its members will co-exist with peers in their soon-to-be abandoned leagues.

The most compelling aspect of the new Big Ten Conference for men's hockey may be how its members will co-exist with peers in their soon-to-be abandoned leagues.

Will it be business as usual with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and Western Collegiate Hockey Association, or will there be resistance when it comes to scheduling and other administrative matters?

The long-discussed concept of Big Ten men's hockey took an official step forward Monday when the league announced its intention to recommend establishment of men's hockey as an official sport starting in 2013-14.

The athletic directors of the six affected institutions -- Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and the University of Wisconsin -- will have their proposal heard by the Big Ten Council of Presidents and Chancellors at their meeting in June.

The recommendation includes both the establishment of a 20-game conference schedule -- each school playing the others in home-and-home two-game series -- as well as a tournament starting in March of 2014 that will determine who gets the Big Ten's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.


The wheels began turning toward this moment when Penn State announced plans to fund men's and women's hockey programs beginning in 2012, which gave the Big Ten the required six schools for sponsoring the sport. Billionaire philanthropist Terry Pegula is underwriting the endeavor -- including scholarships and a new campus rink -- with an $88 million donation.

With Penn State on board, Minnesota and UW will leave the WCHA -- leaving a 10-team league -- while Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State will pull out of the CCHA -- leaving an eight-team alignment -- for the new Big Ten affiliation.

The Big Ten has pledged to work out scheduling plans with the two leagues. UW men's coach Mike Eaves said a proposal has been submitted to the WCHA that creates two blocks of opponents that will be rotated over the course of four to five years.

"We can do a schedule with the WCHA and go out east (for non-league games) if we want to," Eaves said.

Asked if any of the WCHA schools might decline to schedule the Badgers out of spite, Eaves said he's heard his fellow coaches joking about going it alone without Big Ten involvement, but that's it.

"That's to be determined," he said with a chuckle. "That transition is going to be interesting."

UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said he's not heard about such sentiment, but if there are WCHA schools that don't want to play the Badgers, "that's their choice."

In an article on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website, WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod characterizing the interlocking schedule discussions as a tentative verbal agreement and said all 10 teams would likely participate.


Alvarez said there's been no decision about where to play the Big Ten tournament, but acknowledged that rotating through campus sites has been discussed.

He added there are no plans to include other schools in the league for hockey-only purposes.

The advent of Big Ten men's hockey will be beneficial on multiple fronts, according to Alvarez.

One is the TV forum provided through the Big Ten Network.

"It gives college hockey exposure," he said. "I think we're going to have 40 exposures on BTN right off the top."

Another is a fan base that seems to embrace the Big Ten brand.

"They relate more to other Big Ten schools," Alvarez said.

Yet another is having everyone on the same administrative page.


"There's consistency is the league," he said. "You're workin­g under one heading with the same people. As an administrator, you know what to expect."

-- Copyright (c) 2011, The Wisconsin State Journal/Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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