College Hockey Realignment: Notre Dame Closer To Decision, But No Announcement Today

Anders Lee #9 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish tries to keep the puck from Brady Lamb #2 of the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs during semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Men's Frozen Four on April 7, 2011 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish hockey team may be on the move, but the program's is still debating where they will end up. Despite the fact that the CCHA is meeting in Dearborn, Michigan, don't expect a decision today, says Tom Nevala, Notre Dame associate athletic director and hockey administrator:

"If our membership makes that a new agenda item in the course of the day, we will address it, but it's not on the docket at this point."

[snip]

"No decision's been made. We're reviewing our options. When the time comes, we will have to alert our current partners and membership if that's what we are doing, and we'll go from there."

While Nevala hedged, he did say that the Irish are closer to a decision. Notre Dame is reportedly deciding between joining the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference, Hockey East, ECAC, staying in the CCHA or going independent. Which is to say every Division I college hockey conference except for the WCHA, Atlantic Hockey and the Big Ten Hockey Conference, which Nevala confirmed is not an option or the Irish.

If I had to wager a guess, I'd bet that the Irish were headed to the NCHC to join Colorado College, Denver, Miami, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota. Notre Dame would likely be joined by either Western Michigan or Bowling Green, which is deciding between the NCHC, a potential WCHA-CCHA merger or an expanded CCHA with four Atlantic Hockey schools.

If Notre Dame applied for membership in Hockey East, the HEA would be faced with the exact same problem the SEC is currently facing with respect to inviting Texas A&M. With no logical choice for a 12th program right now, an Irish move east could be complicated, though the HEA has mentioned that they would take its time in evaluating other possible expansion candidates.

The Irish moving to the ECAC -- a conference comprised of the Ivy League and several Division III schools -- seems like a long shot, as does Notre Dame deciding to stick it out in the CCHA (unless the CCHA and WCHA merge, though still seems like a long shot). Equally unlikely, I think, is a move towards hockey independence. Unless the Irish can work some sweetheart deal for qualifying for the postseason, I have a hard time seeing how hockey independence would work for Notre Dame. Especially when Division I's lone independent -- Alabama-Huntsville -- has a keen eye on the latest round of realignment, desperately seeking to find a conference to call home.

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