2019 ACHA D1 Expansion

Surprised no ones talking about this yet, but looks like 2019-20 will be a major expansion year for ACHA DI with one independent team (GCU) and 11 others organized into two new conferences.

  1. Aquinas College (Grand Rapids, Mich.)
  2. Cleary University (Howell, Mich.)
  3. Concordia University Ann Arbor (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
  4. Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, Ariz.)
  5. Indiana Tech (Fort Wayne, Ind.)
  6. Lawrence Technological University (Southfield, Mich.)
  7. Lindenwood University-Belleville (Belleville, Ill.)
  8. Maryville University (St. Louis, Mo.)
  9. McKendree University (Lebanon, Ill.)
  10. Midland University (Fremont, Neb.)
  11. Northern Illinois University (DeKalb, Ill.)
  12. Waldorf University (Forest City, Iowa)

I’ll be honest… Why are NIU and a school like Maryville moving up to D1? These are sub-par D2 programs that can barely make the cut there. Just as well, how haven’t any of these lower D1 teams made the move back to D2?

With 12 new programs being admitted in one year, you have to think the ACHA has a new or updated vision for D1. Some programs coming in are NAIA, some are currently D2 and one will be a first year team. The growth of D1 has been slow and steady over the past few years. From the outside, this seemed intentional with most of the new D1 programs having a proven record of stability and success.

My guess on this expansion is the ACHA is looking to continue to expand and establish a strong footprint in the Midwest. It also gives the current D1 programs in the region more options for travel/scheduling.

I would still hope to see strong D2 programs continue to make the jump in the next few years. Programs such as Florida Gulf Coast and Grand Valley have proven themselves at D2.

Yeah, it seems pretty obvious to me that the goal was to establish regional leagues. As far as I can tell the NAIA experiment is being folded back into D1 (not sure what that means for the future of NAIA hockey), some good teams are moving up, and the additional ones are hitching a ride. Definitely curious to see what the 3-5 year plan for ACHA D1 is, because as you mentioned, this is a stark change from the growth that had been seen over the last few years.


I think it makes sense for the NAIA to fold back into D1. If that league was ever going to be seen as legitiimate, it would need to include the top end of ACHA D1, and most of them are NCAA schools so that is not an option. Of the schools moving to D1, I think Aquinas has the best chance for initial success. U of M Dearborn isa already a proven team at this level, and the others will have some growing pains.

Will the 2 new conferences be given autobids for nationals?

According to the press releases, the 2 new conferences receive autobids starting with the 2020-2021 season. I do like the autobids, but if the number of ranked teams qualifying for Nationals continues to be reduced, hopefully there is some discussion about possibly increasing the tournament field.

The nationals field is too big already. They should cut it back to 16 and actually give those 13-16 seeds a chance against the top 4.

Making teams play more than 4 games in a week will only reduce the quality of the play and increase injuries. And for what? So more teams that will never make it very far can spend $20-30k to travel and lose? Not worth it.

George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) is exploring the jump as well they’re currently D-III

FGCU needs to move up to D-1. If they win again this year they should be forced to.

Wonder if something like what the Premier League in the UK does would work? Top whatever of D2/D3 get bumped up to the higher league for the next season, bottom whatever of D1/D2 get bumped down.

Not without conference busting

logistics are just too tough, conference and games in a close proximity. Some places don’t have the finances for it.

Correct, while they all just made the jump up to D1, NYU, Calvin, William Patterson and Toledo are middle of the road in the rankings. The only one to find some success (again based on ranking) is UNLV and they are backed by some big money compared to other D1 programs.

NYU fell off this year, but finished top-25 last season (their first in D1). Toledo was middle of the road for D2; not sure why they moved to D1. Calvin came up from D3; they were a top team there, but it’s a big jump (ask Alabama and Arkansas). William Paterson is pretty much the only top D2 team from that list who moved up and didn’t find some success in D1.

But if we go back 5 years or so we see some other top D2 teams like Missouri State and the Colorado schools who’ve made the jump to D1 and have found success… and also some real head-scratchers like Temple (who will finish 59th out of 60 this season in D1), and Wayne State (a mess of a program from D3 that folded midway through their D1 season).

So I don’t think the problem is that top D2 teams can’t be successful in D1; it’s that the teams moving to D1 aren’t always the top D2 teams. The FGCUs, GVUs, Lindenwood Bellevilles, etc. would do just fine if (or, in the case of Lindenwood Belleville, when) they jumped to D1.

But more than that, let’s not pretend that being unsuccessful in D1 means teams won’t fit in with D1; there are two or three conferences full of teams that probably should be in D2 (or D3) who are pleased as punch to compete in their conference and call it a season. And apparently D1 is pleased as punch to collect their dues and toss them a few autobids in return that only occasionally run afoul of league rules (not that they’ll actually be enforced ever).

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