CHA votes Mankato St. into league

Aaron Kirscht

What began as a fledgling club program 30 years ago is now a full-fledged member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Despite rumors in recent weeks that Mankato State’s bid for WCHA membership might come up short, member schools voted unanimously Friday to welcome the Mavericks into the league beginning with the 1999-2000 season.
“We’ve been club hockey, we’ve been Division III, Division II, we’ve been on all levels, so we didn’t know what was around the corner,” Mankato State coach Don Brose said. “There were viable concerns (in the league), but we hoped they understood our desire to be in this league. It’s always been a dream.”
The closed-ballot vote took place at the league’s spring meetings in Marco Island, Fla., Friday morning, a day after Mankato State representatives completed a presentation on the qualities of its hockey program.
The WCHA found that Mankato State met its list of membership criteria, which included demonstrated Division I competitiveness, a suitable playing facility and academic programs compatible with other member schools.
The 1997-98 season was Mankato State’s second as a Division I independent, and included 18 games with WCHA opponents. The Mavericks finished the year 15-17-2, with a 3-13-2 showing against the WCHA. All but two of Mankato State’s games with WCHA opponents were on the road; the Mavericks were 10-5-2 at the Mankato Civic Center, which seats 4,832.
Mankato State also participated as the No. 10 seed in the WCHA playoffs, losing to top-seed North Dakota in the first round. The Mavericks will again be the low seed in next season’s playoffs.
“They represent everything we aspire to be,” said Norm Chervany, chairman of the WHCA’s Executive Committee and a faculty representative for Minnesota. “We look forward to competing against them and collaborating with them.”
A rider was placed on the membership agreement that will require Mankato State to pay its own travel costs to Anchorage for all regular and postseason games. As part of its own membership agreement in 1993, Alaska-Anchorage now covers travel costs for all other visiting WCHA teams.
Mankato State will also be required to pay 10 percent of the WHCA’s operating costs for the first three years, which total more than $100,000.
“It was hard getting there,” WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod said, “but I know in the end that this association really, really feels good about the decision.”
As part of the announcement, the WCHA also placed a moratorium on future membership applications, although Nebraska-Omaha could be considered for membership during next year’s spring meetings. UNO has also reportedly made a pitch to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association — an apparent back-up plan in case the WCHA doesn’t reopen its doors.
But the admission of UNO could depend on, among other things, the future of Alaska-Anchorage’s program. The Seawolves’ attendance dropped considerably in the midst of their 6-26-5 record last season, resulting in a revenue loss of more than $100,000. And Alaska-Anchorage recently dropped its swimming program, which puts the stability of the Seawolves’ Division I status in question.
Gophers coach Doug Woog said Minnesota’s vote in favor of Mankato State’s admission was easy, both politically and personally. Woog and Brose are longtime friends.
“If we’re concerned about the growth of hockey in Minnesota,” Woog said, “I don’t know how we could say no. The same people who are voting are the same people who voted to let in St. Cloud State (in 1989) and Anchorage (in 1993). If we don’t let them in, the program could die.”