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Everybody Wants Penn State

In the wake of the news that Penn State was considering a move to Division I hockey, a few bits of information have come out in response to it.

The first is a quote from CCHA commish Tom Anastos saying the CCHA is interested:

"They are a very attractive choice -- very attractive," CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos told The Detroit News on Tuesday. "They're in a different market than we're in, more and more U.S. players are on college rosters, and there's tremendous growth of the sport in Pennsylvania."

Again, Huntsville meets all those criteria as well. Pretty much all of the growth of the sport in Pennsylvania is centered in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, both about a solid 3-hour trek to the wilderness of State College, PA. That same radius put around Huntsville gets you the growing hockey markets of Nashville and Atlanta. Of course there are other huge advantages Penn State has, likely biggest among them is a huge alumni network of potential fans. You could probably draw more interest for PSU hockey in Atlanta than you could for UAH hockey. But I still think UAH got a pretty raw deal from the CCHA.

The one conspiracy I've heard people float around is that UAH's rejection was based in part on people knowing Penn State would add hockey. I'm not necessarily sure I buy that. It was known that Penn State was very interested in men's hockey, and considering a move to Division I, but the entire plan was contingent on somebody leaving $60 million on their front door step. Generally, that's not a great first step to a plan. I'm sure this donor didn't make a nearly $5 billion deal with Royal Dutch Shell over a weekend on a whim, and maybe PSU had an idea that some of that money was earmarked for them, but it still seems like putting a lot of faith in a lot of different things.

Plus there's the fact that a lot of schools had reasons--I won't qualify those reasons as right or wrong-- for voting against UAH regardless of there being another team out there.

I usually refrain from reading/linking to Bleacher Report and equally reliable sources, but it's pretty rare that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany mentions hockey directly. Via Sid Hartman of the Star-Tribune:

The Big Ten commissioner didn't see the 18-game conference basketball schedule being extended. But he did say that on the table is a possible Big Ten hockey championship, once another school adds hockey as a sport. Five conference schools now play the sport: Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA, and Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

I'm not going to look too deep into word choice in something that was probably misquoted anyway, but having a 'Big Ten Championship' is quite a bit different from having a 'Big Ten conference'.

Some sort of scenario could probably be worked out where the Big Ten schools could remain in their own conference, and play enough games against each other to declare a Big Ten champion, similar to what was done when Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State were all in the WCHA.

The one problem with that is that it would require quite a few non-conference games to get everyone playing everyone. There's already some frustration from schools out there that it is next to impossible to get a big name school to play in their building. You can probably count on one hand how many non-conference road series Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have played in the last five years. But that's potentially a small price to pay to avoid One Conference to Rule Them All.

It could also lead to a smaller conference schedule, which I know some people may be in favor of, but I don't really like. Playing for percentage points in some convoluted end-of-the-season math equation is a little too esoteric for my tastes. Familiarity breeds contempt, and one of the best parts of college hockey is the intensity and rivalry of conference games. Fewer conference games, plus seeing the same teams fewer times is a double whammy to the excitement of the season.

The third option, which will never happen, but I'll always argue since it makes sense, is lengthening the season. There's the stock argument that college hockey has the longest NCAA season, and student-athlete academic performance, etc. But two things: 1. Men's hockey has been consistently excellent academically since the APR started measuring performance. No schools have lost scholarships, and the sport is consistently recognized as a solid performer. I think the sport has proven it can handle the extra responsibility. 2. From an academic standpoint, it would almost make sense to extend the end of the season. With the season ending in late-March, early April for most players, there is incentive for players to leave school a few weeks before the end of the year to catch on with a pro team for the final few weeks of everybody else's hockey season. Some players go the extra mile to finish classes online or on weekends or whatever, but making the season longer makes it easier for them to finish that last semester.

As a side note, I haven't seen anybody discussing this, though they probably are and I'm just in the wrong circle, but what about the addition of a Penn State women's team? The simplest solution is perhaps joining the CHA and keeping travels costs and inevitable money losses minimal, but with Penn State and Ohio State playing women's hockey, it would be nice to see Michigan and Michigan State jump into the women's hockey mix as well. I have no idea on the feasibility of that, but more college hockey opportunities would be fun to see.