Or Denver. Or UMD. Or UNO. Or CC.
Nope, don't blame them because they're just victims in the changing landscape of college hockey. The five of them blew up the WCHA to form their own mini power conference with Miami of Ohio (per NCAA rules you need at least six schools to start a conference), and perhaps eventually Notre Dame. But they didn't do it because they WANTED to destroy the WCHA and the CCHA, drawing a Grand Canyon-sized line in the sand between the college hockey haves and have nots. No, they did it because they HAD to.
They had to because Minnesota and Wisconsin forced them to. If the Gophers and Badgers hadn't left for the Big Ten hockey conference, everything would be fine and the world of college puck wouldn't be melting like ice on a July day. Mighty (and innocent) North Dakota never would have left for a more lucrative option if Minnesota and Wisconsin hadn't done it first.
The Big Ten Network had a gaping hole in their Friday night lineup for the fall and winter. Too bad they couldn't fill it with NCAA hockey because there weren't enough teams to form a conference. Then Penn State started a hockey program, and commish Jim Delaney pounced. Bam! B1G, college hockey style. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State were pulled from the CCHA and Minnesota and Wisconsin were yanked from the WCHA. Sure, the folks in and around Gopher and Badger hockey may tell you if it were up to them, they wouldn't have left the long history, tradition, and rivalries of the WCHA. But don't believe them. They did it for greed, and to stick it to all of their rivals, and because...well just because. It's THEIR fault after all.
UND and the other members of the "Fleeing Five" are starting their own conference, according to the Grand Forks Herald, to "keep up with the times." Apparently they're worried recruits would no longer be interested in playing for them if they were in the old, stogy, history-filled WCHA instead of a brand spankin' new conference like the B1G or whatever the It's Not Our Fault conference UND and the others are starting. No really, that's not a joke:
UND and others likely wondered whether the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference would be more appealing to recruits than playing in what remained in the WCHA.
Yep so all of the conference titles and Frozen Fours for UND and the national title UMD just won matter not to hockey recruits if it's done in that old crappy worn out WCHA. But in a NEW conference? Well suddenly it's just so attractive again!
You know what else is attractive? A shiny new TV deal! Yes with the history and prestige of the WCHA apparently a TV deal with Versus had no shot whatsoever. But a brand new deal that would be split only six ways instead of 10 or 12? Well that's what we're talking about. But wait, wouldn't that mean UND and the rest of The Fleeing Five were doing EXACTLY what they've accused Minnesota and Wisconsin of doing? Bolting the WCHA for a better TV deal that would be split amongst less schools so the power programs get even more? Wouldn't this be ensuring the divide between the bigger and smaller hockey programs grows and makes it harder for the schools left behind like St Cloud, Mankato, Bemidji, UAA and Michigan Tech to compete even more difficult? Almost impossible?
Isn't this the pot calling the kettle black?
Of course it is. But they'll never admit it. For them, it's much easier to blame Minnesota for the perceived demise of college hockey (I'm not sure anyone gets more sadistic joy than UND fans kicking the Gophers while they're down) than to look in the mirror and admit had the B1G somehow been able to offer hockey membership only to North Dakota, UMD, Denver, or the rest of them, they would have done the same thing. Hell, they would have ran to the B1G offices in Chicago to accept the offer if that's what it took.
They were looking for a way to get a better deal and get out of the WCHA. And I'm not saying that's wrong. Brad Schlossman of the GFH- who has probably forgotten more about hockey than I'll ever know- quoted UND AD Brian Faison as having "concerns with the administrative side of the WCHA", and clearly the Sioux weren't alone in this thinking. Schlossman's quote from the Wisconsin State Journal's Andy Baggot sums it up:
“The idea that Denver, Colorado College, North Dakota and defending NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth would prefer to start their own brand instead of sticking with one that’s been around since 1959 — claiming 37 national titles in the process — is a clear indictment of the WCHA and the suspect management style of its commissioner, Bruce McLeod.”
Clearly there were some leadership issues at stake, but it looks pretty selfish for UND and the others to leave the rest of the WCHA schools fighting for their lives just so the Sioux can get a better TV deal. Then again, the Gophers and Badgers did it first. And this is also college sports, where we saw the whole conference realignment song and dance last summer with major college football, which proved the haves don't care about the have-nots, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it's happening in college hockey too.
The Big Ten did what was in it's best interest in starting its own conference, and pulled the Gophers and Badgers along for the ride. UND and the rest are simply doing what's in their best interest by blowing up the WCHA and starting their own conference too. The motives of all of these schools are the same, and that's protecting their own interest and increasing their value whenever they can. The Gophs aren't any more responsible for "ruining" college hockey than the Sioux. Not that it matters (reality usually doesn't for the fans of UND), because next time you see a UND fan they'll either be doing this or telling you it's YOUR fault college hockey is ruined. But at least you'll know it isn't true.