Monday, April 24, 2006

Conference Realignment Possibilities

I had said earlier that college hockey probably needs to find a way to realign their conferences to help their future. My idea was for smaller conferences, or conferences divided into divisions. I worked on some possibilities and here's what I came up with.

Scenario 1 East vs. West

I roughly tried to seperate the two conferences geographically. I know it's not perfect, but I think it works. Here's what you'd have:

CCHA East: Michigan, Lake Superior, Niagara, Wayne State, Miami, Ohio State, BGSU
CCHA West: Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Alabama-Huntsville, Ferris State, Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Alaska-Fairbanks

WCHA "Minnesota": Minnesota, Minnesota State, St. Cloud, Minnesota-Duluth, Bemidji State, Michigan Tech
WCHA "Other": Wisconsin, North Dakota, Colorado College, Denver, Alaska-Anchorage, Nebraska-Omaha

By no means is this a perfect plan. The teams in the second division in each league have to do a lot of traveling, but not all that much more than they presently do.

If each team plays every team in their division 4 times, that gives every team a couple extra non-conference games to work with. So even though Michigan and Michigan State or Minnesota and Wisconsin don't schedule each other, there's plenty of room for them to schedule each other in non-conference games.

You also set up a system where each team plays a series against a "natural rival" from the other division and then another series or two against a rotating team from the other division.

My sets of natural rivals would look something like this: MI-MSU, LSSU-NMU, NIA-UAH, WSU-FSU, MU-WMU, OSU-ND, BG-UAF, MINN-UW, SCSU-UND, MnST-UAA, UMD-DU, MTU-CC, BSU-UNO

The only problem there is that the "rivalries" are pretty contrived by the end. It also eliminates a balanced schedule which isn't a huge deal, but would be nice.

Scenario 2 State of Michigan

The idea puts all the Michigan teams together in the same conference.

CCHA Michigan: Michigan, Michigan State, Western Michigan, Ferris State, Wayne State, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior
CCHA Other: Ohio State, Bowling Green, Miami, Niagara, Notre Dame, Alaska-Fairbanks, Alabama-Huntsville

The WCHA would be the same as listed above, unless you could convince Michigan Tech to play in a conference with the other Michigan schools. In that case, you'd move Michigan Tech into the Michigan division and Omaha into the other division. The WCHA could go back to their normal schedule since they would only have ten teams.

There's a couple problems with this though. It's a great deal for the Michigan schools, but the other division gets kind of screwed. It's questionable if the other league could survive without Michigan and Michigan State. It's also a lot of traveling between Niagara, Huntsville, and Fairbanks. The league could still share a conference tournament and alternate the site between Detroit and somewhere like Columbus, Dayton, or Omaha.

Scenario 3 Big Ten Tourney

This isn't a restructuring per se. It probably couldn't be done right now given the way things are currently, but if college hockey got restructured and teams ended up with a couple extra non-conference games, or they extended the season and the number of allowable games, I think this would be a good idea.

Basically, instead of creating a Big Ten conference and leaving the rest of college hockey in the dust, you allow the Big Ten teams to stay in their respective conferences(whatever those conferences may be), but hold a two weekend round robin tournament with Big Ten teams to determine a champion.

There is a problem with a six team, but I think for the purposes of the tournament, it would be best if North Dakota was the sixth member.

The tournament would work like this: It would be two weekends per season. One in the first half of the season, one in the second half of the season. The eastern teams would host one weekend, the western teams would host the other. It could be held on campus sites, or they could move it to bigger facilities(XCel Center, Joe Louis, Nationwide Arena). The games would be held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I created a rough tournament schedule. I'm not a scheduling/math wizard, so there are a few problems with this schedule, but I think you'll get the basic idea of how exciting it would be.

Weekend 1 @ Joe Louis Arena
Day 1: Wisconsin vs. North Dakota, Michigan vs. Ohio State
Day 2: Minnesota vs. Ohio State, Michigan vs. Michigan State
Day 3: OSU vs. North Dakota, Michigan State vs. Wisconsin, Michigan vs. Minnesota

Weekend 2 @ XCel Center
Day 4: Michigan vs. Wisconsin, Minnesota vs. Michigan State
Day 5: Ohio State vs. Michigan State, North Dakota vs. Michigan, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
Day 6: Minnesota vs. North Dakota, Wisconsin vs. Ohio State

I messed up the schedule somewhere because I can't work Michigan State vs. North Dakota in anywhere, but you get the general idea. Obviously schedule-makers could do a better job than me at minimizing two teams from the west playing in the east and such, but overall, I think it's a great idea. Can you imagine the excitement of two great games during the day leading up to Minnesota vs. Wisconsin at the XCel Center or Michigan vs. Michigan State at Joe Louis?

I think it's great for college hockey in terms of exposure, interest, and it should be very profitable financially. You get the excitment and quality of Big Ten hockey without cutting the legs out from under from the other, smaller college hockey schools.

Those were just some of the ideas that I came up with. I'd love to hear other suggestions or critiques of what I had to say.


Anonymous said...

For the two first realignment options, it's obvious one division gets a better schedule in terms of distance and travel time over the other division. Not much thought or insight went into the ideas.

The Big Ten isn't going to lend it's name to any team that isn't in the Big Ten. North Dakota or Notre Dame or any other team outside the Big Ten is not going to be in a Big Ten sanctioned tournament.

I regularly enjoy this Blog, but this is no better, no original and no more well thought out than any other realignment proposal.

Chris said...

You're correct about the second division traveling a lot more. But Huntsville, Omaha, Fairbanks, Anchorage, CC, and Denver are going to be traveling quite a bit, regardless. It's no more travel than there currently is, and a lot less for some teams.

The Big Ten tourney wouldn't even need to be sanctioned by the Big Ten. It could just be the six biggest western programs all getting together to play a non-conference tourney.

I don't claim to have all the answers to this problem. My suggestions were just a working start. If people have a better idea, I'd be more than interested to hear it.

Badger Backer said...

I think you could easily solve the UND problem by just having it be a 5 team round robin. That way, each team plays 4 games which over two weekends would match up to what each team would normally play.

As for the WCHA breakup, my only concern is that you're breaking up some of the biggest rivalries in the NCAA to only play once a year. Denver-CC stays together, but MN would only get a series a year against the Badgers. I think that you could say the same thing about a MN-UND game.

Also the WCHA is really unbalanced. I know you did it geographically but you have Minnesota along with previously minor-conference Bemidji State and 4 teams that didn't get home ice in this year's WCHA playoffs. On the other side, you have UND, CC, Denver, and the Badgers, plus a decent team in UNO with the only weaker team in UAA.

I know things change in terms of balance of power over time, but I think when discussing realignment for this season, you don't want a "division of death" sitting opposite a weak division with only one good team.

If you switched it so CC-Denver would be on one side and MN-UND-UW on the other, I think that would be a better outcome. That way you'd keep both of the big traditional rivalries in the same division. If you put SCSU, UMD, and MSU in the Minnesota division with those 3 teams you'd also have every current Minnesota WCHA team in there for the geographic rivalry purposes with the Badgers in there for the traditional rivalry.

Of course, I think our best option is to pass a rule that says you can't change conferences if your conference would end up with less than 6 members. That way we'd be saying, "Sure, Air Force, you can leave, but find us a 6th team before you do." It'll never happen but I think it's a good idea.

Regardless, lets hope the CHA finds that 6th member.

Chris said...

Those are good points, BB. The only nice thing about adding North Dakota into the BT Tourney is that then they'd get three games per season against the Gophers which would probably be enough for the rivalry.

I don't know how unbalanced the WCHA is. Certainly it would have been this year. But in 2002-2003, Minnesota and Minnesota State both finished second, while UMD and SCSU finished 5th and 6th. Only CC and North Dakota finished in the top 7. The same could happen next season if CC and Denver struggle due to some graduation losses. You'd have Minnesota, SCSU, North Dakota, and Wisconsin as top teams, and then everybody else jockeying for position as an average team.

I'm not entirely sure a league of CC, DU, UAA, BSU, and UNO could survive. Who exactly is the big draw there? A lot of those schools would be dependent on big name schools playing them at home in non-conference games to generate revenue and I don't know that that would happen.

Donald said...

You'd get more fairness in realignment by drawing lots for "divisions" rather than anyone subjectively picking/choosing who they think belongs with who. But realignment isn't necessary at this time with one simple action.

Tell Air Force "Fuck no you can't go".

End of story.

Badger Backer said...

I actually think the best realistic scenario is to give CHA a 5 year waiver where they can get the autobid despite having only 5 teams. That way, we can avoid realignment and it'll give them enough time to find a new member.

As to the realignment, I think it will never happen. The WCHA is happy with its 10 teams and I'd be very, very surprised if they took on anyone new.

However, I still think the divisions as proposed are unbalanced, just because despite the fact that SCSU, UMD, and MSU have put together some good teams recently (and UW stunk in 2002-03), and even though I think that those 3 guys have pretty good looking teams for next year, I think you just can't compare them over the last 10-15 years to UW, UND, CC, and Denver. Looking even more historically, you've got 21 national championships in that "other" division vs. 8 in the "Minnesota" division.

You might have me on the finances though, it'd be hard for some of those teams to make it without one of the "Big 3" attendance guys on the slate.