North Dakota play-by-play voice for Midco Sports Network Dan Hammer created a stir on Wednesday when he tweeted out some interesting comments North Dakota athletic director Brian Faison--recently named chair of the NCAA Tournament Committee--made during UND Sports Extra on the Midco Sports Network:
UND A.D. Brian Faison, new NCAA hockey committee chair tells me he will move for realignment of NCAA regionals to include home sites— Dan Hammer (@Hamsbrew) March 18, 2015
Whether those are top 8 or top 4 hosting and format remains to be seen. Likely top 8. He believes there is growing support from coaches.— Dan Hammer (@Hamsbrew) March 18, 2015
Will certainly be major topic at hockey coaches convention this spring but Faison says he will take the lead on realignment of regionals .— Dan Hammer (@Hamsbrew) March 18, 2015
ND A.D and NCAA hockey committee chair B. Faison also envisions 2 super regionals after field is cut from 16 to 8.— Dan Hammer (@Hamsbrew) March 18, 2015
The move to put NCAA regionals in larger, neutral site venues has largely been a failure. From playing the most important games of the season in front of less than 2000 people, to potentially giving lower seeded teams home ice advantage simply because they were willing to take on the loss of hosting a nearby regional, to outrageous expense(a game to earn a bid in the Frozen Four, between local rivals Minnesota and St. Cloud State couldn't draw 9000 people at the XCel Energy Center last year). The NCAA had to award a regional to Notre Dame's home rink for this season, going back on a long-held pledge to not play regionals in home arenas, because no other building in the midwest submitted a bid to host.
As someone who experienced the 2013 Midwest Regional in Toledo in person, this move can't come fast enough. It was embarrassing to play such important, and such high-level hockey in front of maybe 1000 people. Toledo was a great building, but the logistics of getting people to regionals just don't work in college hockey. Taking away the most important games of the season from all but the most diehard/well off fans is a terrible way to grow the game.
We will see how this plays out. An ideal scenario would be going back to the old NCAA tournament format where the first round(and, even better, quarterfinal round too) is a best two-out-of-three at the higher seed's home venue, but that seems unlikely. In any case, it is a step forward in creating a more exciting NCAA tournament, and one that fans actually might get to experience.