A/X, another great post.
ACHA Probation: The ACHA probationary year you refer to only pertains to a first year ACHA team, such as M1 Jamestown this season. This policy does not apply to teams that will be moving up or down divisions. For example, NYU and UNLV will be moving up to M1 for the 2017-2018 season, but will not be required to “sit out” there first year in M1 - if they qualify, either by auto-bid, or rankings, they will be in Nationals. Aurora fits into the same category. The M3 Aurora team from last season, who came within a goal from moving into the semi-finals in M3, decided to move up to M2 this season. Along with Met State-Denver, both will reach the regionals in their inaugural M2 season. We should applaud their success. As stated in many prior posts, we are making every effort to encourage teams to participate at the appropriate competitive level and not “sand bag” in a lower division where they overpower most of their competition.
M2 Auto-bids: The idea behind the auto-bid is not to lessen any team’s chance to participate in the post season through the ranking process, but rather to permit more exposure to teams and their conferences to the excitement of Regionals. It also, I believe, provides more cohesion to the conferences by giving them an opportunity to play for the post season, while strengthening the commissioner’s authority to achieve compliance within their conference. The ACHA relies heavily on these volunteer commissioners every season to “hurd the cats” in their respective conferences - mostly it is a thankless job - the auto-bid, in part, recognizes the hard work they do each season.
The auto-bid policy for M2 was adopted from, then made more strict from the M1 Division. M1 has had this policy in place for many years, and has for the most part, been very successful in promoting the game and strengthing conferences. M1 added four teams to the National Tournament to expand from a 16 team bracket to a 20 team bracket to accommodate any auto-bid teams not ranked in the top 16. To date, the number of teams not in the top 20, has numbered 2 or 3 per year - giving the ranked teams an extra one or two bids they would not have had previously. We adapted the same philosopy when we approved the M2 auto-bids, expanding regionals from 8 to 10 teams (3-12 seeds), given the fact that some auto-bids might not be ranked in the top 10. Last year, only the Southeast had two teams not ranked in the top 12 who received an auto-bid. In the other 3 regions, the #11 teams were given an invitation they would not have been given under the old format.
That worked well for #11 Michigan who beat #10 Lewis then took Davenport to OT, I believe. Of the 8 “Play-in” games, only one was a blowout, and two lower seeds actually won. In the SE, GWU lost by 2 (1 EN), and Princeton lost in OT - both first time teams to the ACHA post season. Will keep monitoring for future adjustments to the policy changes. The general policy rules are:
- Conference must be well established (4 years in good standing with ACHA). Exception - Texas Conference will be granted auto-bid next year (given by Mike R. prior to his passing).
- Conference must have 8 teams (if a conference has qualified for an auto-bid, and loses teams to take them below 8, they are waivered in for 1 year - after that 1 year with the auto-bid, the conference must return to 8 teams to qualify)
- All Conference members must be in good standing with the ACHA (Fees paid, Eligibility forms submitted).
- Teams within a conference receive an auto-bid in which the conference is located geographically, NOT the team.
This season, the breakout is as follows:
Northeast: SuperEast, NECHA
Southeast: ACC, MACH, Tri-State, Colonial
Central: MACHA, NCHL, WCHL
West: Mountain West, PAC-8
As you can see from the list, we do not believe the teams that receive auto-bids will exceed the #11 or #12 seeds for Regionals.
I do not have the breakdown, but MOST conferences select the auto-bid by their Championship Tournaments. This has added value and excitement to these end of season tournaments as teams beyond the #10 seed fight for the auto-bid. Example last year, Rider won several upsets in MACH only to lose a close game in the finals against UD - they just fell 2 goals short of reaching their goal. I received many email last season to express the gratitude of these teams and conferences after their participation in Regionals. I know personally, that two of these auto-bid teams received a significant increase in funding for their program just because they went to Regionals and lost one game! If we are to grow the ACHA and the quality of the our sport, exposing more members to the excitement of Regionals while not sacrificing the Top 10 rankings, can only be a positive.