Post #40 — 6/11/21 — We’re Back, AHCA Convention, NCAA News/Update, Sifters

In This Post…

  • The Pipeline Blog is Back!
  • AHCA Convention Update
  • NCAA News/COVID Update
  • Sifters

We’re Back!

The Women’s College Hockey.org Pipeline Blog is back! Once a week, we’ll bring you all the news, notes, and updates from around NCAA women’s college hockey, just as we did during the 20-21 season. We appreciate your patience during our time away in April & May. There is quite a bit of news to catch up on, so let’s get to it.

AHCA Convention Update

The annual American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) convention was unfortunately was held virtually from May 10-13 again due to COVID. The annual event normally held at the Naples Beach Hotel in Naples, Florida is for women’s and men’s coaches, school athletic administrators, and college hockey’s stakeholders to meetup to discuss issues of importance affecting the sport.

The AHCA did have an in-person farewell weekend event with a few hundred AHCA members April 29 – May 1 at the NBH. Although an in-person convention did not happen, that did not lessen the work that got accomplished. The virtual event was superbly planned and executed with each division and genders having online zoom meetings as well as professional development seminar opportunities with guests such as Martin St. Louis. Here are the major topics & takeaways discusses by the D-I women’s coaching body.

Division-I Topics

  • NCAA legislation moratorium until the 2022-2023
  • Verbal offer date change
  • NCAA tournament bracket expansion & Single site NCAA tournament location recommendation
  • Patty Kazmaier Award voting timeline and presentation structure changes
  • Use of new NPI ratings formula for national tournament selection

Division-I Takeaways

+ NCAA legislation moratorium until the 2022-2023 cycle… New NCAA legislation is on hold until the 2022-2023 cycle. Legislation slated to take effect for the 20-21 season was tabled due to COVID. Those pieces could find their way into the 2022-2023 cycle, but remains unknown.

+ Verbal offer date change… Over the next year, the women’s coaching body will discuss a change that would allow coaches to make verbal offers to prospects beginning August 1 after a prospects grade 10 year. This is instead of June 15 which is the current date in place. The rationale: More time to get to know your recruits before making financial commitments and allowing prospects to get to know coaches and more about the institution.

Men’s hockey currently has this rule. Women’s coaches discussed this rule change at length two years ago, and there was much support, so much so, women’s coaches were under the impression the rule change would take effect our sport as well. That is until our women’s executive committee found the legislation was approved for men’s hockey only. It ‘slipped through the cracks’ as the women’s executive committee was told by our NCAA reps.

+ NCAA Tournament Bracket Expansion… The women’s coaching body is working on a request for a 10 team national tournament field. NCAA bylaws stipulate 50% of the tournament field must come from conferences with auto-bid and the other 50% come from at at-large berths. The newest D-I women’s conference the NEWHA and will complete its required 2nd full season with 6 teams after the 21-22 season. After which it will be auto-bid for the 2022-2023 season. That gives Division I women’s hockey 5 auto-bid eligible conferences, but out of compliance according to NCAA selection bylaws with an 8 team field. Upping the field to 10 makes a lot of sense with 5 eligible auto-bid conferences to make up the 50% bylaw requirement. However there are several factors, cost being one, when adding 2 more teams. Currently D-I women’s ice hockey is under-represented on a % basis of its membership that gets to compete for the national collegiate championship. That % sits at just under 20% which is the lowest % of any NCAA sport with as many teams in its membership.

+ Single site NCAA tournament location recommendation… As part of the push to get a 10 team NCAA tourney field, one angle as part of the proposal is making a change to the format of the tournament itself. Using this years’ tourney as an example, all games were held at one site – in Erie, PA. One site allows for ‘Bracket Integrity’. What’s bracket integrity? It’s when you have a true seeded field with a schedule such as #1 vs #10, #2 vs #9, #3 vs 8, #4 vs 7, and #5 vs #6. Rarely if ever has the D-I women’s tournament had bracket integrity. Why? It costs money to fly teams around the country. So to save, the NCAA would try to avoid any more than two flights in the first round. In doing so, you have teams that play one another in the 1st round who are a little closer geographically and in competitiveness than when bracket integrity exists.

+ Patty Kazamier Award voting timeline and presentation structure changes… Coaches will make a request of the Patty Kazamier organizers to make changes that will enhance the profile of the award, while making the event a little less burdensome for the teams and finalists involved. Coaches feel voting should take place after the national tournament is complete. Second, the award has been announced on the off-day before the national championship game in a very nice ceremony, but it can be a bit awkward if the winner lost the semi-final on the day before. Usually finalists are playing in the Frozen Four or in the national championship game. Announcing the winner at another date and time would make that senario go away. Also, it would help increase the awards’ profile by not sandwiching it in the middle of our sports marquee event – the national championship.

+ National Tournament Selection Criteria Change Coming… College hockey has used what is known as the Ratings Percentage Index or RPI, in selecting teams for the national tournament by the women’s ice hockey committee. A new method – called the NPI or NCAA Percentage Index – will be in the committee’s arsenal now. The NPI gives a 30% weighting to winning percentage and 70% to strength of schedule. Simply put, the NPI is cleaner math.

The RPI is calculated based on winning percentage, opponents’ winning percentage and opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage, and the NPI is calculated based on winning percentage and the opponent’s rating itself (rather than the combination of opponents’ winning percentage and opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage) as
the measure of schedule strength.

There was a recommendation for the NPI to replace the RPI, but it was ultimately determined the selection committee should have use of both tools at its disposal to use.

NCAA News/COVID Update

Robert Morris Drops D-I Hockey Women’s & Men’s Programs… In a shocking development, Robert Morris University decided to drop its Division I women’s and men’s ice hockey programs effective immediately. The news broke May 26th and the decision was said to be part of new strategic initiatives outlined to position RMU as one of the most agile in the country. You can read the official story HERE on RMU’s website. A follow up story can be found HERE on USCHO.com.

RMU becomes the third D-I women’s program to close its doors behind former CHA conference member Wayne State Univ. in 2011 and the Univ. of North Dakota in 2017 of the WCHA. There has been been a groundswell of support to try and save the programs. A local rink management company along with management at the Pittsburgh Penguins have reached out to present a plan to RMU president Chris Howard.

As if recruiting wasn’t tough enough already for those in the class of 2021 or 2022, an entire team of D-I players just hit the transfer portal to try and hook on with another program. It’s June, and rosters are largely set heading into next year. But some space will be available for programs to take players. It’s just an awful situation that no one with the women’s or men’s RMU hockey programs could have anticipated. We will keep you updated as developments take shape.

Recruiting Opens Up for D-I Coaches… The NCAA ended its temporary COVID recruiting dead period June 1st. Coaches are back in rinks and traveling to evaluate players live for the first time since in 14 months. Numerous camps, clinics, showcases, and recruiting events opened or will open their doors soon. The Os Prospects/Futures event in Bloomington, Minnesota was just held June 4-6 and drew over 450 players with close to every D-I program in attendance. The first two weeks of June are proving to be very busy for player evaluations in anticipation of the June 15th call date for the class of 2023.

Important Date for NIL – Name, Image, Likeness Coming July 1… If you’re paying attention to NCAA news other than COVID restrictions, than you are sure to have heard about NIL or name, image, and likeness NCAA legislation and state laws being drafted to begin July 1. For those who don’t know a thing about the NIL issue, here is the jist.

Beginning July 1, 2021 the NCAA will allow athletes to be compensated for their ‘Name, Image, and Likeness’ without institutional or conference involvement. It has been long argued schools have profited off of their athletes but with no compensation back to the athletes themselves. That non–compensation system is changing. With NIL, we’re really talking about the sports that produce the millions in revenue some schools take in–Football and Basketball mostly – but others exist too – hockey being one of them.

So, what can student-athletes be compensated for? According to the NCAA, Student-Athletes can be compensated for the following:

  • Compensation for third-party endorsements related to athletics, without school or conference involvement.
  • Compensation for other student-athlete opportunities, such as social media, new businesses, and personal appearances, without institutional involvement or the use of trademarks/logos.

In May the NCAA updated its NIL plans which you can read HERE.

What does NIL look like? Here’s an example. Picture a car dealership that advertises on TV/radio that XYZ University star Junior Goaltender Sally Smith will be signing autographs from 10-2pm on a Saturday to try and help drum-up business. Now, Julie can be paid by the dealership for her appearance and not break NCAA rules doing so.

There are no federal/national laws that govern rules and compliance for NIL. So, states are left to come up with their own laws covering NIL. States with laws on the books are set to go into effect on July 1, 2021. There could be 50 different versions of NIL laws. The money some athletes (think name brand football/basketball names – both female/male) could make is substantial money, some predict in the six-figures. Imagine how this could play out in recruiting battles. Recruits could want to go to schools in states that have favorable NIL laws so they can optimize their own NIL.

Will NIL have an impact on women’s hockey? Tough to say. But you have to wonder how businesses within the sports themselves and in the locale of the school, will try and use NIL to their advantage.

Sifters

Coaching Carousel… There have been no shortage of D-I head and assistant coaching positions open to be hired. It’s been one of the most active off-season for openings we’ve ever seen. Here’s a rundown of what jobs were/are still open and or have been filled already.

Head Coaching Positions Filled/Open

  • Brown University – ECAC – Melanie Ruzzi (former Asst. coach at Princeton University)
  • Dartmouth College – ECAC – Elizabeth Keady Norton (former Assoc. Head Coach @ Boston University)
  • Stonehill College – NEWHA (new member in 2022-2023 season) – Tara Watchorn (former Asst. Coach at Boston Univ.)
  • St. Anselm College – NEWHA – OPEN
  • St. Thomas University – WCHA – Joel Johnson (Former Assoc. Head Coach at Minnesota)

Assistant Coaching Positions Filled/Open

  • Boston University – Hockey East – 2 Assistant Coaches – OPEN
  • Brown University – ECAC – 2 Assistant Coaches – OPEN
  • University of Connecticut – Hockey East – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Dartmouth College – ECAC – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Mercyhurst University – CHA – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Merrimack College – Hockey East – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • University of Minnesota – WCHA – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • University of New Hampshire – Hockey East – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Princeton University – ECAC – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Providence College – Hockey East – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Quinnipiac University – ECAC – 1 Assistant Coach (Filled by Brent Hill)
  • Stonehill College – CHA – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Syracuse University – CHA – 1 Assistant Coach – OPEN
  • Union College – ECAC – 2 Assistant Coaches – OPEN

In total there were 5 D-I head coaching positions open and 17 assistant positions. Those numbers represent a 11.9% and 20.2% turnover rate. While we not have data year-to-year on coaching turnover, we do know since 2001, there have been no fewer than 3 head coach opening to be filled.

UCONN Breaks Ground on New On-Campus Arena… The University of Connecticut broke ground in a ceremony for a new $70 million dollar, 2,600 seat rink facility on May 22. No completion date was given, but the state-of-the-art facility will feature women’s and men’s dry change & locker room areas, full athletic training facilities, a hydrotherapy area, players lounge, and video display areas. You can read UCONN’s official announcement HERE and video HERE.

Future Teams Take the Ice… St. Thomas University, a perennial D-III power in the MIAC will be making their D-I debut as a new member of the WCHA for the 21-22 season. St. Thomas makes the jump as the 8th team in the WCHA. The Tommies basically got kicked out of the MIAC and really had no choice but to move up to D-I in all sports with hockey as a part of it’s athletic profile. It’s a perfect fit geographically as 5 other teams in the WCHA reside in Minnesota. Adding the Tommies does however take away 4 non-conference games for each WCHA team. Teams will now play 28 regular season games and have up to 6 non-conference games to schedule.

Stonehill College, located just outside of Boston, MA will commence the building of its women’s hockey program with newly announced head coach Tara Watchorn. Stonehill plans to compete in its first season during 22-23 as a member of the NEWHA. Coach Watchorn will spend the 21-22 season recruiting her inaugural team.

With word of RMU shutting down both its women’s and men’s hockey programs, it was nice to hear about a potential school starting D-I hockey, albeit in an unlikely part of the country–Tennessee. Tennessee State University, one of the country’s historically black colleges and universities, is reportedly ready to conduct a feasibility study into starting women’s and men’s Division I hockey teams. As reported in the Nashville Post, TCU is potentially partnering with the Nashville Predators to see if this can come to fruition. It was unclear when the study would take place or when an announcement could come. You can read more HERE.

COVID Changing Youth Hockey Landscape… With the amount of players taking a gap year and with a continued growth in girls hockey, we wondered where would all these players play? Shattuck St. Mary’s recently announced in March it would be starting a second U19 girls hockey team. You can read the official announcement HERE. The team will be coached by Mitch Baker, former assistant coach at Union College.

With COVID shutdowns still going on in Ontario, we’re starting to hear about players leaving Ontario and coming to the US to play hockey and go to school for next season. A normal hockey season in Ontario is not looking so normal this coming year. Youth hockey and sports in general, are on track to go back to a normal way of life here in the US. Players are left to roll the dice and wait to see what the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association decides, which ultimately will come at the hand of the Ontario ministry of health and Hockey Canada officials. Another lost year of hockey development could be real troublesome for players and the sport itself.

Until Next Time… Have a great weekend everyone!


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