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By John J. McRae, Published January 16 2009

Bemidji State to formally pursue spot in WCHA

BEMIDJI, Minn. – Bemidji State University’s quest to become a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association cleared a major hurdle Thursday.

Yet an even larger one remains.

BSU officials have announced the institution’s intention to formally pursue membership in the WCHA on behalf of its NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey program.

The university’s announcement follows Thursday’s unanimous vote of the WCHA member institutions to lift the league’s moratorium on expansion, which had been in place since 1999.

“I’m excited, but also realistic. A lot more work has to go into this,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. “Step one is done. Now we can move on to the next step where we will be able to tell our story to the members of the league – that’s all we can ask.”

What will BSU’s story be as to why it should be admitted to the elite men’s college hockey league?

The answers came quickly from Serratore.

“Everybody will have different reasons why we should, or why we shouldn’t, be in the league,” he said. “From the BSU perspective, we are in the geographical footprint of the league teams; we are going to have a new facility that is second to none; and we have been a player in the college hockey world for many years. We feel we have a lot to offer.”

BSU administrators were enthused by the lifting of the moratorium as well.

“We realize we will need the support of eight of the WCHA’s 10 members for our application to succeed,” said Bemidji State Director of Athletics Rick Goeb. “After seeing what we have to offer, we believe the WCHA will be excited about adding Bemidji State University as its newest member.”

The Bemidji State men’s ice hockey program is a member of the four-team College Hockey America conference, where it has made its home since the league was founded in 1999-2000.

However, the long-term viability of CHA has been in question over the last few years as the size of the league has diminished.

The league dropped to four members for the 2008-09 season, leaving Bemidji State to explore its options for future conference affiliations.

The Bemidji State women’s ice hockey program is a member of the WCHA, and has been a member since its inception for the 1999-2000 season.

The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is a 10-team NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey conference which includes the University of North Dakota; University of Minnesota; Minnesota State University, Mankato; the University of Minnesota-Duluth; St. Cloud State University; Michigan Technological University; the University of Wisconsin; Colorado College; the University of Denver; and the University of Alaska-Anchorage. The WCHA is headquartered in Denver.

Serratore said BSU would make its presentation to the WCHA during the college hockey coaches convention in Florida in April.

The Bemidji Pioneer and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.