- May 29th, 2018, 12:16 pm
Every year or so this topic sort of comes around, so I figure now is as good of a time to touch on it as any (it is the end of May after all). I like to think I know a little bit about this, and I’m pretty darn close to the program. So, take this how you like...
1) We are opening at home against Penn State’s ACHA team, not its NCAA program. With that said, Liberty beat Penn State during their transition season, with a team full of scholarship NCAA players. So I don’t think we would be totally demolished, but let’s not pretend we are at that level, because we aren’t.
2) A great talent comparison in the rapidly growing and improving ACHA D1 is NCAA D3. The top 15 ACHA teams would do VERY well in NCAA D3, and some would likely be national champions on a given year. More and more, talented players are choosing to go to bigger universities with more academic choices, higher name recognition, better weather, and just more to offer. That means a ton, and I mean a ton, of guys are choosing ACHA over the small private schools in the northeast that offer NCAA hockey at the D3 level. The facilities, amenities, travel, coaching, media coverage, and competition have all improved so much in the past decade, it is honestly a more exciting experience for the most part. While a handful NCAA D2 schools have hockey, there hasn’t been a D2 national championship in a long time, with no plans to reinstate it. Most D2’s are in the process of transitioning either up or down.
3) There was a time a few years back when a move for Liberty was looked at. Eventually the view became that at LU, we could do more by making it one of the premier ACHA programs in the country, with one of the top 3 facilities, than by moving to a much more heavily regulated and expensive NCAA brand. And frankly, they were correct IMO. ACHA is growing so quickly, and the quality is improving so rapidly.
4) We would definitely need to move both the men and women for Title IX reasons. So you are more than doubling the expense there, for what is already the second most expensive NCAA sport. Our travel expenses would be VERY high. We could afford it, but getting schools to come to us would be more difficult (not saying it can’t be done).
5) Conference affiliation would be an issue. Mostly because of travel. We would be a geographic outlier, by a lot, no matter where we tried to go. Hockey East is an absolute pipe dream. That would be like a new D1 school going to the SEC. Not going to happen. Definitely not going to happen for a private school in Virginia. Alabama Huntsville has NCAA hockey, and so does Arizona State. There are other geographic oddballs, but we would be one of the 5 worst in the nation.
Honestly, it’s just not feasible in the current climate of NCAA hockey. Things could change a lot, especially if the SEC and PAC get involved, which is at least mentioned as a long term possibility on occasion. However, the change and momentum really seems to be that ACHA hockey is going to keep pulling stronger players to bigger schools, especially in the warmer climate south and west. Heck, ACHA programs are already sending guys into professional hockey left and right (including Ours). It is unlikely to be an NHL pipeline in the near future, but with a very feasible and moderate increase in support from schools on facilities and budget, the product will be just as attractive as NCAA D1 is on campuses throughout the Northeast and upper Midwest.
It’s going to be a great season guys. Big time games at home, and the team is going to be awesome. Also, it is worth noting that Coach Handy is committed to putting young men on the ice that we ALL can be truly proud of, on and off the ice. The spiritual growth of the team is his main priority, and it is fantastic to see. These are true student athletes, and the type of young me. doc envisioned putting on a Liberty University uniform. Please support them.
"The same things win that always won...We just have a different bunch of excuses if we lose."