The future of men's hockey in the WCHA is again uncertain after seven current members, including Minnesota State-Mankato and Bemidji State, have informed the Bloomington-based conference of intentions to leave for a new conference within three years.
The seven schools – MSU-Mankato, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan – plan to stay in the WCHA for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, but then begin competition in the new conference for the 2021-22 season.
The new conference does not yet have a name and it only impacts men's hockey, so the seven departing schools' women's teams will remain in the WCHA.
In a media release through athletics cosultant Morris Kurtz, the schools said the decision to leave is a "focus on improving regional alignment and the overall student-athlete experience while building natural rivalries within a more compact geographic footprint."
The three programs not leaving the WCHA are Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage and Alabama-Huntsville. None of them are in the same geographic footprint as the other teams located in the Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley.
The WCHA's future has been shaky since Minnesota and Wisconsin left for the Big Ten in 2013, followed by longtime WCHA members Denver, Colorado College, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State leaving to create the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC).