By Paul Hornstein
The last time that the number 62 meant anything was September 8, 1998. On that day, Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run of the season breaking Roger Maris’ single season record.
Well, despite the pandemic, the number became significant again, in the past week, as the NCAA announced that it was giving St. Thomas University (University of St. Thomas??), the Tommies,the right to move up immediately from Division III to Division I. Of course, this happened on a Wednesday afternoon. After we did another College Hockey Southwest Weekly. Thank you, Willie Knierim, for doing the show. Beginning in the 2021-22 season, the men’s team will begin its first season of Division 1 hockey. It is likely that the women’s team will start as a member of the WCHA. As for the men, that is where things get trickier. Theoretically, the men’s WCHA still exists. The two Alaska teams and Alabama-Huntsville are still part of that league. I do not know what happens to those three teams when the other seven teams leave to create the “new” CCHA. A conference that disappeared when Penn State went D1 and teams from both the CCHA and WCHA that were regular Big Ten members created that league for hockey.
I will get this out of the way no. I don’t care that St. Thomas will start in a building that only seats 900. What I will say is, if they don’t have a new building announced and shovels in the ground by next October, I better hear all of those elitists that screamed about ASU playing in Oceanside, screaming how can they play in that dump? It’s so small, we have HS rinks that seat more people. Bet you won’t. St. Thomas is in Minnesota (ASU is not) & the argument has never really been about the size of the building…
St. Thomas is a small private school in St. Paul, Minnesota that was a powerhouse in its conference, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC). It basically got thrown out by the other members because kicking everyone’s rear end in sports, and using their resource advantage. The other schools got tired of it. Is it that cut and dry? No, probably not, but you get the idea.
As crazy as it seems, in this day of the corona virus, the college hockey world is actually a plus-2 during this whole thing. Between UAH being saved, and adding LIU, at s time, when schools are cutting sports. I’m looking at you, Stanford. (The other schools did it for money, Stanford was just looking for an excuse.) And so once we get through this pandemic (we will eventually) the conference reshuffle game will start again. It is almost a certainty that the St. Thomas will be invited to the new CCHA. That would make it its long sought after 8th team. College conferences have this thing for even numbers, even though every league has a conference tournament. What happens if, as was rumored a year or two ago Minnesota State tried to again get into the NCHC? What happens if both MSU & ASU end up in that league? What happens with LIU, do they try to get into the ECAC? Or Atlantic Hockey? Is a start-up school in the NY metro area enticing enough for the ECAC? Atlantic Hockey seems like the right fit for now, but the rumors are that they are waiting for the Naval Academy to jump to varsity status and have all three service academies in the same league. I am not going to lie, while I want every school to have a team, I am almost as tired hearing about, how Navy is coming up, as I am hearing about Illinois.
Wow, I got off topic pretty quick.
Back to St. Thomas. This jump was not unexpected. It was more a matter of would the NCAA allow it. When Grand Canyon applied for D1 status in sports, they had to do it gradually. Build facilities, increase budgets, etc. It took time, but they are now officially a D1 sports school for all of the teams the school sponsors. Well, St. Thomas was granted an exemption. They will not have to wait. Now there are probably some details in there that I have not seen yet, like they may not be eligible for post season play for a couple years (which would be stupid, but what the heck do I know?), so there will be more to sort out.
For now, I am just glad that college hockey is growing, even if it is a little bit at a time. And it is probably better that way. Welcome aboard St. Thomas…now about that nickname…