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A Tale of Two Conferences

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Here's a few of the latest updates while you wait for the biggest press conference in the history of sports this afternoon.

Speaking of the Secondary Six press conference, you can probably watch it online somewhere. It starts at 11am, or noon, or 1pm or something. It's tough to tell since the conference spans three time zones, which seems just perfect for television ratings.

There's a couple things to watch for. First, athletic directors and coaches from the six schools will be in attendance. What will be the ratio of people answering questions to people present and asking questions? I'm guessing at least 2:1.

More importantly, I think everyone will be watching very intently to see what kinds of answers these schools have to some of the questions raised in the past week. We've heard that this conference could do better in terms of a TV deal, and branding, and organization. Tomorrow is the day they have to start providing solutions rather than just raising complaints.

Meanwhile, the athletic directors from the remaining schools in the WCHA will also hold their big meeting in Minnesota this week to discuss what the conference's future is. The proposed docket seems to be pretty clear:

Item #1: DOOOOOOOOOOOOM!

Item #2: Northern Michigan desperately wants into the WCHA. From the WCHA's standpoint, this seems like a no-brainer.

Item #3: Rumors of Alaska being invited into the WCHA have picked up some steam as well. Alaska-Anchorage athletic director Steve Cobb even hinted at Alaska in a letter to fans explaining the current situation. The divisional set-up I proposed earlier this week is the simplest set-up for an eight-team conference, but if the Alaska schools end up in the same conference, they'd almost have to play four conference games against each other, and that throws a bit of a wrench into the plans.

Item #4: Should the WCHA meet with the CCHA? The CCHA reportedly reached out to the WCHA on Monday to sit down together and try to help each other. The WCHA reportedly told them they wouldn't answer if they were willing until Friday. That, of course, prompted the question of "Who needs five business days to respond to an invitation?"

I understand that the WCHA can't really say much until they get together, but why are they waiting until this coming Friday to meet? The news of the Secondary Six forming broke last Wednesday, and none of the athletic directors remaining in the WCHA have a single Division I sports program to worry about besides their hockey program. I understand it takes some time to crunch some numbers to come to the meeting prepared, but when your primary sports program is about to be re-designated into irrelevance, you order some Chinese food and work late, through the weekend if necessary. I mean, maybe not in Minnesota since the Chinese food is flat-out awful, but still.

Item #5: What is the future of the conference tournament? The Star-Tribune reported that Bruce McLeod would be sitting down with people from the XCel Energy Center about potentially keeping the tournament in St. Paul. I highly, highly doubt they'd have the type of clout to keep the tournament there, and if they did, I doubt it would work out from a financial standpoint. But it would be an ironic twist if, after all this was done, the WCHA ended up holding their conference tournament at a large, neutral venue while the Big Ten and Secondary Six were relegated to top seeds hosting on home ice.

One of the miscalculations I think the Secondary Six made is how much people legitimately loved the Final Five, even if their team wasn't in it. Losing the Final Five has been one of the first laments I've heard from fans on both side of the fence. It was sort of the upper-Midwest's version of the Frozen Four, where the event was greater than the teams in it. Marketed well, and made affordable enough, the WCHA is in the best position to take advantage of spring hockey festival idea in the Twin Cities area. Eight teams in two divisions guarantees at least one, and likely two Minnesota teams advancing to the final round of the playoffs. But would it be profitable enough for the other conference teams to give up that home ice advantage?