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Pioneer Editoral: WCHA on verge of 12 teams?

That Bemidji State University didn't win approval this week as the newest member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association isn't the news Bemidji State fans wanted. But that a vote wasn't taken, keeping BSU's chances hot, isn't all that bad either.

Bemidji State was the lone applicant for membership when the prestigious WCHA lifted its moratorium on new members, and BSU officials made their pitch for membership at the league's spring meeting this week in Florida. It was a good pitch, WCHA Commissioner Bruce McLeod said. If one can read between the lines, it seemed the WCHA was ready to admit BSU but for one stumbling block -- 11 teams make for a tough scheduling headache but 12 teams clears up a lot of problems.

So rather than even take an up or down vote on Bemidji State, the WCHA decided to continue lifting its moratorium and this time aggressively seek that 12th member.

It won't be easy, as Commissioner McLeod noted, as he ethically can't actively recruit members of good standing in other leagues. Still, it appears the WCHA has given him some "negotiating" tools should a potential school be ready to talk WCHA membership. And, as Commissioner McLeod said in his roundabout way, at least one school is ready to do that.

His hopes are to wrap this up by mid-summer. That arrangement seems to work with BSU as well, as both Athletic Director Rick Goeb and men's hockey coach Tom Serratore put a positive spin on the WCHA delay. Said the Frozen Four coach: "After 10 years, what's few more months?"

Nebraska-Omaha and Northern Michigan were two teams bantered about. It was noted that the University of Alabama-Huntsville has applied to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, which could promote a shift.

One thing is certain -- the potential of a new NCAA Division I hockey program at Minnesota State University-Moorhead is not in the picture. Despite heavy media hype from Fargo, a team on paper that has yet to field a team on the ice can't even talk about potential WCHA members. League rules stipulate that a potential must first play two or three years in a Division I schedule before even being considered, so the WCHA will be looking elsewhere for No. 12.

Bemidji State -- and Bemidji -- have taken great risks to bring high-class college hockey to town and it will pay off. The program will not only enhance all that BSU has to offer, athletically and academically, but will also add immensely to the community's economic development and quality of life.

Coach Serratore is right. What's a few more months?