BY MICHAEL SMITH
The breaking news from college athletics is not coming from the hardwood of the NCAA basketball tournament but from the frozen rinks of college hockey.
The Big 10 athletic conference is attempting to start its own hockey league and snatch quality teams from other large conferences.
The universities of Minnesota and Wisconsin belong to the Big 10 but both play D-I hockey in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, one of the more prestigious hockey conferences in the country.
Furthermore, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association has three Big 10 schools â€” Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State â€” that would most likely bolt for the new league during is inaugural season in 2012-13.
These changes could potentially open the door for MSUM to take another run at D-I hockey.
A lot of the buzz gathered when the idea of D-I hockey first emerged is now gone but if some of the groundwork was laid back then, MSUM would be ahead of the game in forming a team.
The first time around, the MSUM athletics department hit some roadblocks when attempting to develop a hockey team.
In an ideal world, MSUM was looking to create a program and join the WCHA when it expanded in 2009. The Dragons were not accepted at that point and Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha joined the WCHA instead.
If Minnesota and Wisconsin both leave the WCHA, MSUM has yet another chance to join.
There has been no mention of the University of North Dakota â€” a WCHA powerhouse â€” leaving the conference and a rivalry with the Sioux would draw big crowds on both campuses.
D-I hockey would be a good niche for MSUM athletics in the area; none of the other tri-college schools offer hockey.
NDSU doesnâ€™t have a hockey program and Concordiaâ€™s team plays D-III.
In this area especially, hockey is a sport people grow up playing and local talent is in abundance.
The program could have many benefits for the university, including fundraising and enrollment increases.
MSUM has to make some strides this time around if a hockey team is ever going to be in the cards.
The chance to join the premier hockey conference in the nation doesnâ€™t come around very often and for MSUM, this is the second such opportunity.
The dream of a D-I hockey program is resting in the capable hands of the athletic department and if it is practical, we should actively presume the chance.
There are many challenges to getting a quality D-I hockey program, but now is the time to give it a serious second look.
To read more from this writer, view his blog at smithmi.blogspot.com