The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will add the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) as a full-time men's conference member starting with the 2013-14 season, the league announced Thursday.
The addition of UAH will bring the WCHA's future men's league membership to 10 teams: Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks, Bemidji State, Bowling Green, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Minnesota State and Northern Michigan.
"We are happy for the University of Alabama Huntsville and their hockey program," BG coach Chris Bergeron said. "It is good for college hockey to protect all the programs. They are a welcome member of the new WCHA."
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, founded in 1951, has been operating as a 12-team conference for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Current members are Alaska Anchorage, Bemidji State, Colorado College, University of Denver, Michigan Tech, Minnesota, Minnesota-Duluth, Minnesota State, Nebraska Omaha, North Dakota, St. Cloud State and Wisconsin.
On March 21, 2011, the Big Ten Conference announced the formation of a new Division 1 men's college hockey league that would include current WCHA members Minnesota and Wisconsin as well as current CCHA members Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State to begin play in 2013-14.
On July 13, 2011, Colorado College, Denver, Minnesota Duluth, Nebraska Omaha and North Dakota announced they would be leaving the WCHA following the 2012-13 season to form another new league, known as the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, which also begins play in 2013-14. Then on Sept. 22, 2011, St. Cloud State (WCHA) and Western Michigan (CCHA) announced they were leaving for the NCHC.
Soon after the announcement of the NCHC, most of the remaining schools in the WCHA and CCHA decided to merge into one league under the WCHA banner, with Bowling Green joining on Oct. 4, 2011.
Alabama-Huntsville elevated its hockey program from club to varsity status for the 1985-86 season as a member of the NAIA, became a full NCAA Division II member in 1986, then moved to Division I as an independent in 1987-88.UAH returned to Division II hockey in 1992, then moved back to Division I for the 1998-99 season as an independent. The team became a charter member of College Hockey America starting with the 1999-2000 season and stayed in that league until it disbanded in 2009.
UAH applied for membership to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association in 2009 but was denied and the Chargers became the lone independent program in Division I.
Early into the 2011-12 season, interim UAH President Malcolm Portera announced that the 2011–12 season would be the school's final season competing at the NCAA Division I level, citing financial reasons. New UAH president Dr. Robert Altenkirch reversed the decision after he and school administrators met with local supporters on December 6, 2011.
Click here to read this story by Matt Wellens of The Mining Journal regarding the possible entry of Alabama-Huntsville into the WCHA.
UPDATE: Wellens has this story about how Alabama-Huntsville will handle the travel costs of teams playing games in Huntsville, Ala.