In late November, Bemidji State announced that athletic director Rick Goeb would be replaced at the end of the 2012-2013 academic year. Goeb was instrumental is navigating Bemidji State from the dead CHA and into the WCHA. But an institutional review showed the BSU athletic department running some serious deficits that had to be made up by the university.
Last weekend, the Bemidji Pioneer's Jack Hittinger took a look at some of the finances involved with the school's only Division I sport, the hockey team, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture:
After breaking even in the first season at the Sanford Center – which coincided with BSU’s first season in the WCHA – the men’s hockey program needed more than $250,000 from the university to remain afloat last season, and school officials are projecting a greater sum of money when the books are closed on the 2012-13 season.
The deficit needed to be made up by the university is projected to be $289,592 this year just for the men's program, though that might even be generous if the Beavers don't see as much of a second-half bump in attendance as expected if the team stays mired in 11th place in the WCHA.
The topic of what is going happen next year when realignment comes, especially for the left-behind teams of the new WCHA, has been a hot topic in college hockey rinks all over the country so far this year. From a purely hockey standpoint, I've had zero concerns at all. The new WCHA is going to have a lot of quality, hard-nosed, blue collar teams that should make for some fun conference match-ups. The real issue, as evidenced above, is going to be whether or not these teams can continue to make things work financially.
Bemidji State is in a particularly precarious position because they're bound by a 20-year lease to the newly built Sanford Center. The Sanford Center was probably a little too big and expensive for a program the size of Bemidji State to handle financially, but it was the type of arena schools like North Dakota and Denver demanded they get in order to join the WCHA(and subsequently save their program), shortly before those schools stabbed them in the back by leaving to form their own conference. With the brand recognition of their competition dropping significantly next year, it seems very likely to see the trend of decreasing revenues to continue.