Utica University Hockey Will Go D-I, But Will They Have a Conference Home?
The Utica University men's hockey program is about to become a Division-I program, but the question to be answered in May, is whether or not the Atlantic Hockey conference will welcome them into their league.
Here's how it's working. Utica's athletic program is moving to Division II at the end of this school year. Because college hockey doesn't have a Division-II, Gary Heenan's Pioneers will be declaring itself a Division-I program. Additionally, Utica has petitioned to be accepted into the Atlantic Hockey conference which currently has 11 teams. As of right now, Atlantic Hockey doesn't seem to keen on allowing Utica in, according to College Hockey News.
"At the moment, the majority of coaches in the league do not want to add Utica. Although many of them would change their mind if the league decides to split in half, which is another story all together, but related in this case.
The idea of splitting the league in half is on the table, but getting people to sit together and make a plan for that, is like the proverbial herding of cats. For the first time in recent memory, each school had an administrative representative at the Coaches Convention in Naples, Fla., but nothing close to a consensus on these issues was reached." -College Hockey News
One of the concerns according to CHN is that Utica (and potentially other schools added to the conference) would add competition when it comes to recruiting and scholarships, which many of the AH schools, like the service academics, still are unable to do.
Adam Wodon of CHN says the current talks revolve around creating two distinct Atlantic Hockey leagues with two commissioners and two automatic bids. The publication says that this adds complication as each of the current AH schools (their administrators) have to all agree. Wodon says he's for the inclusion of Utica which would add great competition to the league.
"I get the concern in the disparty of "like-minded institutions," but I still believe it's short-sighted and selfish of some of these places to deny Utica entry on these grounds. It would be a strong addition. Welcome the competition," Wodon wrote and he described several scenarios of what could happen.
Ultimately, we'll know very soon as the 11 Atlantic Hockey schools will be meeting in mid-May to vote yay or nay. If Atlantic Hockey chooses not to expand, Utica would be left playing as an independent D-I school fighting to create a schedule.