The expansion conference call obviously had a lot of folks listening in, interested in what’s currently happening and what’s going to happen with the WCHA. It lasted about 45 minutes. WCHA commish Bruce McLeod, Bemidji State athletic director Rick Goeb and BSU head coach Tom Serratore were all available for questions. Most were directed at McLeod.
The Herald story is located here.
Below, I’ll post a general roundup of the questions and answers. I’m just going through some notes here, so they aren’t going to be word for word, but they’ll be close.
BRUCE MCLEOD OPENING STATEMENT: "Our issue was not with Bemidji State. Our issue is more with the number. We’ve been through quite a few things in the last six months and our issue was to get to 12. If we didn’t care about Bemidji, we’d just stay at 10. The direction I got from the athletic directors is that they want me to be more aggressive in my pursuit. I still have some ethical issues that I have to be careful with in pursuing a team from another conference. Once I get an indication from them — I’m not going to talk specifically about which teams, I think we all know who some of the potential candidates are — once I get an indication from them, hopefully I can find a way to ethically work through proper channels and encourage them. It’s a little different approach than in the past. We’ve lifted the moratorium indefinitely, so we don’t have a timeline we’re working with. I don’t think we’re looking at this like a normal membership application, it’s more of a membership negotiation feeling."
Q. Could Moorhead be the 12th team?
BRUCE MCLEOD: The situation with Moorhead is interesting. The timeline to get a Division I team up and going and having, by our criteria, played a Division I hockey schedule for a specific number of years (two). . . I would say that’s the biggest issue. But there are a lot of issues. Timelines don’t work in their favor right now.
Q. So could we say that the Moorhead thing is a dead issue?
BRUCE MCLEOD: I don’t know if I would say it as definitively as that. That’s something to ask them. They have a lot of obstacles to overcome, though.
Q. What are the biggest issues facing Moorhead?
BRUCE MCLEOD: There are quite a few. A couple things come to mind: certainly the timeline. First they have to get a D-I team up and running and they have to play a certain number of years with a D-I schedule. I don’t know if there is any clear indication that they are going to do anything unless they have a conference. We have some people from Bemidji sitting in the room with us — and let me tell you, their neck is out a long, long way in hoping for membership in the WCHA. They didn’t get any assurances. And there’s also the whole issue of institutional support. I’ve read quotes from their president saying that they aren’t going to use any institutional funds. It’s going to be all fundraising or foundation work. That certainly is a concern to the WCHA. There are always ups and downs in these programs from a monetary standpoint. You need institutional commitment to play D-I hockey and to have a quality commitment to making a quality program.
Q. Do you have a timeline in place for when you want to find this 12th team?
BRUCE MCLEOD: We’ve had a lot of discussion, but we haven’t set a specific date. We did set ourselves a goal. Our goal is leaning toward mid-summer rather than next spring. We have to be more aggressive with our approach to this issue. We’re at the 11th and a half hour and closing in on the 12th hour. We have to be innovative and aggressive.
Q. Are there any incentives you can give other teams to get them to apply?
BRUCE MCLEOD: I wouldn’t put it in terms of incentives, but we do have criteria that we can work with. We have the cost of membership of joining the league and when they start to benefit from the profits at the end of the year. Those are things we can negotiate. There are some specific things with some specific institutions that can be negotiated, too.
Q. Did you consider adding Bemidji now and then later going back and finding the 12th team?
BRUCE MCLEOD: There was a discussion about the pros and cons of doing something like that. The issue for us was that’s not a good way to go about doing business. Admitting Bemidji as an 11th team and then hoping for the best after that — that’s not something we were comfortable with doing.
Q. Is Huntsville a possibility?
BRUCE MCLEOD: I don’t want to preclude anybody because sometimes your perception of a program could be different from reality. I know that they did apply to the CCHA. If we were setting a priority list, they would not be at the top of the list.
Q. Can you talk about some of the financial problems with an 11-team league and how 12 teams benefits the WCHA more?
BRUCE MCLEOD: People have been pretty aware of the financial ramifications. It’s a little bit different on each campus. There certainly wasn’t much positive from an 11-team standpoint. There are real positives with 12. One issue is that we can play six first-round games. That’s a positive. It gives us a better opportunity from a financial standpoint. We could get a larger home building in the mix [Is that an Omaha hint?]. Certainly, if you talk about Bemidji in particular as one of the 12, it definitely increases our fan base at the Final Five. Hopefully, you can create a positive out of that. If anyone saw the number of people and the amount of excitement created by Beaver fans at the Frozen Four, that’s a pretty good indication. They would definitely increase our fan base.
Q. How would 12 teams change scheduling?
BRUCE MCLEOD: We would still have each team with their traditional partner [UND’s is St. Cloud State]. With that model, it takes five years for the whole conference thing to work out evenly for everybody. With our scheduling model for 10 teams, it takes four years. So, it’s one more year.
Q. How could this change things for the CCHA?
BRUCE MCLEOD: All of us know the issues that Bowling Green and another school are having in regards to longevity and the health of their program there. It’s certainly a delicate issue. There are a number of ethical questions involved (with contacting the CCHA teams). I have a ton of respect for (CCHA commish) Tom Anastos. The water is getting muddier here in the D-I hockey lake by the day here.
Q. Would a 12-team league mean a Final Six instead of a Final Five?
BRUCE MCLEOD: One suggestion has been to have a Final Six — have 1 and 2 get byes, 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5 on Thursday. There may not be a third-place game. That’s one thing the coaches are very concerned about. There’s been a suggestion to not have a third-place game, but that has not been firmed up at all.
Q. After learning some of this information today, is this something Moorhead could go back and improve some things and re-visit their attempt to get in the league?
BRUCE MCLEOD: They can make it better, no question. I don’t know how much better, though.
Q. Omaha and Northern Michigan have been the two talked-about candidates for membership. Have you talked to either of those programs yet?
BRUCE MCLEOD: Without being specific, yes on one.
BEMIDJI STATE AD RICK GOEB STATEMENT: We are pleased with the WCHA’s decision today. We understand the complications an 11-team format would create. We’re very excited and pleased with the direction we’re headed.
BEMIDJI STATE COACH TOM SERRATORE STATEMENT: What this does is it buys the WCHA more time to be flexible to get 12 teams. They want a clean number and a clean number is 12. We have to be patient and let them do their thing. This has to play out a little bit. This is the most positive feedback we’ve had in a while. I’m very confident we’re going to get in the WCHA when it all plays out.
Q. Is this hurting recruiting?
TOM SERRATORE: The quicker the better. Obviously, it’s tough getting recruits when there is inconsistency about what’s going to happen. But we’ve been patient for 10 years, so what’s a few more months? I feel confident that the WCHA is going to find a 12th team and I feel very confident with where we stand with the WCHA.