Folks, I apologize for the delayed response to PC's ask - hope all were enjoying the holiday week with a very short break from the ACHA.
This thread changed directions more than Lindsey Vonn on a downhill run. Permit me to address some of the great points raised here.
First, to address the original issue raised by AX, there is no movement to have a selection process into M2 Division, similar to our M1 Division. That does not mean it cannot occur in the future, but I just don't see it happening anytime soon - and yes., I assure you that I am wide awake.
The real issue to be addressed is placing teams in the division that best suits each team under 3 criteria: 1) sustained talent on the ice, 2) organization, funding, & support from the university, & 3) geography. (Notice, there is no mention of size of student body at the university - many teams have proven that criteria to be irrelevant). In addition, given if you agree with our premise, size of each division becomes a non-factor - attempting to place any hard numbers on each division may become counterproductive.
If you agree that this is the central issue we have in the ACHA to increase the parity and competition at each level, then we can roll up our sleeves and attempt to find "carrots & sticks" to entice teams to move into their most "competitive" division.
Following is a break down of where the ACHA commissioners and I have discussed possible deficiencies & corrections. This is by no means a complete list or do we pretend to have all the answers. We encourage further input in this discussion in an attempt to make the ACHA Post Season & National Tournament more competitive for the teams, more exciting for the fans, & give the opportunity for more teams to enjoy the thrill of the ACHA post-season.
1) Issue Addressed: Teams have remained in divisions based on these unique rule-sets. These unique rules have been the driving factor in why teams remain in a lower division in many circumstances.
Action: Standardize the rule-set for all divisions for eligibility and eliminate special divisional rules (i.e. The no play on Sunday rule).
Results thus far: Calvin College, NYU applied and were accepted to M1. Several more top M2 teams are considering the move in the near future.
2) Issue: The ACHA has geographic black holes in organization of the divisions. For example:1) New England only has an M2 presence despite dozens of teams in close proximity at various competitive levels, 2) New York has an incredibly weak M1 & very strong M3 presence with very few M2 teams, 3) CA has only an M2 presence with some conferences very weak, 4) FL is a small island of excellence at M2 & M3 & 5) ACHA presence in MN is anemic. Obviously, there are other geographic pockets nationally that have inconsistencies, but these are the areas we are attempting to address at a macro level.
Action: Develop strategic plan to address these areas of concern & communicate the benefits to conferences and teams.
Results: Plans have been developed, discussed, & are currently being worked for NE & NY. With any luck, you will see some results/movement in these geographic areas announced in the near future.
3) Issue: Mutiple teams from same university in same division.
Action: New registration procedures next season will preclude the ACHA universities from having multiple teams in the same division. Teams (and historical files) will be identified by university and division.
Results: The following teams have adjusted: 1) Aquinas & LTU will move up to NAIA division, 2) Calvin College will move to M1, 3) Adrian (Gold) will move to M2.
4) Issue: Too many independent teams. Independent teams require more ACHA oversight, tend to be slower to register, pay fees or fines, & have a greater tendency to forfeit than those teams that are in a conference.
Action: Created auto-bids for M2 conferences with 8 teams and in "good standing". Also examining other incentives and disincentives to move teams into conferences and reduce the independent population.
Results: Reduced independent population by more than 30% in M2.
5) Issue: ACHA incentives and disincentives that encourage teams to remain in a division that is antithetical to their competitive level. As with rule-sets, we have to understand the drivers that incentivize teams to remain in conferences and divisions where they may not be competitive or are dominant.
Action: Two-way communication is the key here. Several methods to communicate: 1) Better communication from our commissioners in the form of newsletters and through the website, 2) Reaching out to players, coaches, conference commissioners, and long time volunteers to the ACHA, 3) Social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, national media, or this blog, 4) We set up a strategic committee of coaches from diverse backgrounds, divisions, and geographic areas to identify issues that include registration, eligibility, rankings, geographic and divisional challenges, fairness, incentives, disincentives, ACHA communication, etc. - basically issues that may surface on this website, in locker rooms, or on university campuses. In short, a committee of coaches that can propose changes to the ACHA leadership from the grass roots.
Results: An increase in awareness of what the ACHA is attempting to accomplish in 3-5 years, while soliciting input and feedback from as many ACHA sources as possible. We may not solve all the issues of all our members, and we will make mistakes. However, we will continue to work hard to improve the professional experience of our collegiate student-athletes. Please keep the dialogue, feedback, criticism, and locker room chatter coming.