Bruce McLeod, commissioner of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), announced today that the association has voted to approve the membership of Bemidji State University and University of Nebraska Omaha into its men's ice hockey conference for the 2010-11 campaign.
The University had originally presented its case for membership in April, during the association's annual meeting in Marco Island, Fla. The addition of Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha will bring the WCHA's membership from 10 teams to 12.
"I am extremely pleased to announce that the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is expanding to twelve teams," said McLeod. "With the addition of Bemidji State University and the University of Nebraska Omaha, the WCHA solidifies and positions itself to maintain and expand upon the excellence that is the WCHA.
"This is certainly a defining moment for the WCHA and we are proud to add Bemidji State and Nebraska Omaha to our already strong organization.
McLeod continued, "This is a happy and proud day for me. I'm happy because I think this is such a win-win circumstance for the WCHA, our new members and collegiate hockey in general. I could not be more proud of the way our WCHA members have handled this very complex circumstance and have been able to look beyond their own backyard and do what is best for
college hockey and the WCHA.
"This announcement by the Western Collegiate Hockey Association is the realization of a decade-long dream for Bemidji State University," Bemidji State President Dr. Jon E. Quistgaard said. "Pursuing membership in the WCHA was the ultimate goal of the University when it made the bold move to elevate its men's hockey program to Division I status in 1998.
"Bemidji State University hockey has superb support from its alumni, friends and fans; we're moving into an elite college hockey facility in 2010; and we have a strong, nationally-competitive Division I program," Quistgaard said. "We are a University the WCHA will be proud to call its newest member."
"The pieces are all falling into place for Bemidji State hockey," stated BSU Director of Athletics Dr. Rick Goeb. "Beginning with the efforts to elevate our hockey programs to the NCAA Division I level and having the women's program join the WCHA over 10 years ago, to our partnership with the city to see a world-class venue like the Bemidji Regional Event Center come to fruition, and now the men's hockey program being approved for membership into the elite conference in all of college hockey.
"We want to thank the city of Bemidji, our dedicated fans and the student body who have supported Bemidji State hockey. These outstanding hockey fans and partnerships have made membership into the WCHA a reality."
"This is a great day for the Beavers," Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore said. "First, I want to thank the WCHA for this opportunity. It is truly an honor to be a part of the greatest hockey conference at the Division I level and we feel privileged to come along side the other Division I hockey programs in the state of Minnesota as members of the WCHA.
"Beaver hockey reaches far beyond this campus so that makes today's announcement a dream come true for our alumni, many in the community and many in the region. This is a proud day for all involved with Bemidji State."
Full membership in the WCHA solidifies what already has historically been a close relationship between the Beavers and the association. Since elevating its program to NCAA Division I status in 1999, Bemidji State has played 85 non-conference games against members of the WCHA, more than any other program in the nation. In addition, Bemidji State's historical rivalries with association members St. Cloud State and Minnesota State date back several decades to a time when all three competed in the
small-college Northern Collegiate Hockey Association.
Bemidji State's men's ice hockey program is a member of the four-team College Hockey America, where it has made its home since the league was founded in 1999-2000. College Hockey America dropped to four members for the 2008-09 season and will disband following the 2009-10 season, when Niagara University and Robert Morris University will depart for Atlantic Hockey.