BIG RAPIDS – Ferris State University has accepted an invitation to join the six-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association beginning with the 2013-14 season. Ferris was one of five members of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association extended invitations to join the WCHA. The acceptance of this WCHA invitation for the university's Division I college hockey program was approved by the Board of Trustees and announced by Ferris President David L. Eisler.
Ferris' acceptance of the WCHA's invitation is the result of collaborative efforts that the university's administration has undertaken with peer institutions during these past few months.
"Hockey is a very important sport to Ferris State University and to our fans," Eisler said. "In joining the WCHA, Ferris remains firmly committed to a program of the highest standards of national competition with continued great success by our student-athletes and coaches. The unanimous support of the presidents in the WCHA in extending this invitation is sincerely appreciated. We look forward to working with them and our CCHA colleagues to make this a conference that builds on the great traditions of our programs and institutions."
Ferris joins the University of Alaska (Fairbanks), Bowling Green State University, Lake Superior State University and Western Michigan University as CCHA members that were invited to join current WCHA members University of Alaska-Anchorage, Bemidji State University (Minn.), Minnesota State University at Mankato, Michigan Tech University, Northern Michigan University and St. Cloud State University (Minn.). As a condition of this potential membership process moving forward, the WCHA-member presidents established a 30-day response timeline for acceptance.
Ferris is pleased to accept the invitation and looks forward to its WCHA membership.
"This is an outstanding day for Ferris State Bulldog hockey and college hockey in general. The uncertainty of the past five months has caused some genuine angst and instability on hockey playing campuses across the country," Athletics Director Perk Weisenburger said. "Through the vision, leadership and cooperative spirit of the institutions in these two tradition-rich conferences there is a renewed sense of stability, excitement and a new direction for hockey programs in both the CCHA and WCHA."
Today's announcement by Ferris is the product of a series of discussions between representatives of the CCHA and WCHA, including a recent meeting that took place in Chicago on Tuesday (Aug. 23). The two leagues have also agreed to continue to hold regular talks to address topics such as by-laws, scheduling, tournament scenarios, finances and additional membership.
"We're very flattered that the WCHA has extended this invitation to the Ferris State hockey program to join its conference," said head coach Bob Daniels, who is entering his 20th season on the Bulldogs' bench. "This is a very good opportunity and we're excited about what this means for our program."
Ferris has competed in college hockey since the 1975-76 season and became an NCAA Division I program during the 1979-80 season. In more than 30 seasons as a Division I program, the Bulldogs have had nine student-athletes earn All-American honors, a CCHA Player of the Year, a CCHA Coach of the Year and made 29 national television appearances since 2006. Ferris has had a number of players compete in the National Hockey League, including Chris Kunitz, a two-time Stanley Cup champion and current member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This future partnership with the WCHA continues Ferris' tradition of student-athletes competing against high-level competition in Division I ice hockey.
"We are happy for the student-athletes that play the game, for hockey fans everywhere and we couldn't be more pleased at becoming a part of this new hockey alliance and partnership," Weisenburger said.
Commissioners from both the CCHA and WCHA issued statements.
"This invitation represents a tremendous opportunity for the remaining members of both leagues," CCHA Commissioner Fred Pletsch said. "Their collective commitment to Division I hockey was evident in Chicago and the synergy created by last Tuesday's meeting will help all involved chart a course that is right for their respective program and provide further stability to college hockey's evolving landscape."
"This is truly a significant and quite remarkable twist in what has been a period of great consternation and transition in the college hockey world," WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod. "During what were very informative and productive meetings in Chicago, and as we worked our way through the agenda, it became clear that all of these great institutions share a commonality in that every one of them is 100 percent committed to the sport of collegiate ice hockey and that they also share a great deal philosophically both athletically and academically. From there, the idea of coming together was a natural progression."
This season, the Bulldogs are scheduled to make 18 regular-season home appearances at the Ewigleben Ice Arena in addition to a home exhibition contest against the University of Toronto (Ontario) on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 3:05 p.m. Ferris' 2011-12 regular-season home opening series is set for Oct. 14-15 against Rensselear Polytechnic Institute. The Bulldogs open CCHA competition the following weekend, Oct. 21-22, as it hosts perennial national power Miami (Ohio) University in a two-game series in Big Rapids.