Tech Hockey Guide has confirmed that the University of Alabama-Huntsville has filed paperwork with the WCHA to exercise their ability to leave the league, joining seven other members (all the schools from Minnesota/Michigan/Ohio [MMO]) in filing this paperwork. This leaves just Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska holding onto the WCHA.
In an attempt to confirm a comment made by a fan on the USCHO message boards, THG contacted Todd Bell, WCHA communications manager. Bell said by email, “Confirmation on this has to come from the school. You’ll need to speak with UAH. I am not aware of any public statement.” THG reached out to Sam Baldwin, UAH Sports Information Coordinator, who confirmed that UAH has filed papers to leave the WCHA, calling it “procedural.”
The question remains as to what will happen with the eight departing teams. It is highly unlikely that all of them end up in the same place and this seems to indicate that another reshuffling will happen prior to the start of the 2021-22 season. Between the filing of UAH and the MMO teams filing back in June, came the announcement that the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis would seek an exemption to jump straight from DIII to DI in all sports for the start of the 2021-22 season when they are removed from their current DIII conference, the MIAC. Even if St. Thomas is denied their waiver, they are likely to immediately move up to DII allowing them to play DI hockey right away if they so choose.
St. Thomas’ potential move to DI hockey and the financial situations in Alaska, due to the state government, both appear to be major reasons for the timing of the announcement from UAH. St. Thomas would give more balance within the Midwestern footprint. Obviously, St. Thomas doesn’t have appropriate facilities (They currently share a rink with a high school prep school of the same name) but that is a minor issue compared to the potential of the MMO teams gaining a team in the Twin Cities area again. Not to mention another potential voice at the DI table when it comes to NCAA voting matters.
Alabama-Huntsville is likely looking at two options with this move. The first option would be to find a way to be included with some or all of the MMO teams, leaving the WCHA, to round out a new conference. Alternatively, UAH could join the AHA now that their position in the old WCHA is weakened. The AHA in recent years has also removed their scholarship restrictions. Time will tell but I’m sure over the next two years there will be more rumblings about the MMO teams, Western Michigan, Miami, UAH, St. Thomas and how things might shake out.
Edit: The now second paragraph was added for context of how THG received confirmation of this information, including comments received from Todd Bell and Sam Baldwin.