Big Ten Hockey Conference Set For 2013-2014
Athletic directors from across the Big Ten announced on Monday their intention to recommend making men’s ice hockey an official conference varsity sport. Their recommendation would state that the conference would start sponsoring conference play in the 2013-2014 season.
The conference season would include 20 conference games for each of the six Big Ten teams with Division I hockey programs with two games home and away with each opponent. Starting with the inaugural 2014 season, a conference tournament will take place with the winner earning the Big Ten’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
The six teams forming the new conference are Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State who will begin Division I play in 2012-2013.
The formation of the hockey division within the Big Ten Conference means that the CCHA (Central Collegiate Hockey Association) and WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association) will be losing members. Currently, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State play in the 11-team CCHA and Minnesota and Wisconsin compete in the 12-team WCHA. Each conference will take a hit competitively as well as financially as teams like Ferris State and Alaska from the CCHA and Michigan Tech and Bemijdi State of the WCHA rely on the big names that are leaving the conferences to bring money in through sponsorships, attendance and tournaments.
But what does this mean for the Big Ten? First off, it means more revenue compliments of the Big Ten Network. There will be at least 100 games to be broadcast and with no other major network showing college hockey, the Big Ten Network will be able to cash on the 20 conference games each team will play along with non-conference games against some of the best teams in the nation scattered about the New England area.
Secondly, and maybe not as apparent as the first point, is the impact it could have on conference expansion if it happens again. After the inclusion of Nebraska, commissioner Jim Delany said that the conference may reconsider expansion again at a later date.
If and when the conference decides to expand again, it would not be surprising for them to go after schools with strong hockey programs. With that being said, Rutgers and Pittsburgh have strong club teams as of right now. Much like Penn State, these club teams could find the financial support to move up to Division I if the promise of playing in the Big Ten Conference was apparent.