The story was that the Big Ten was always pursuing Notre Dame. But the Irish loved their independence. And without the Irish, the B1G decided to expand anyway. Enter Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers.
Well, sometimes you get what you ask for if you wait long enough. Or at least you can get some of it.
OFFICIAL: @NDHockey will join #B1GHockey as a sport affiliate member beginning with the 2017-18 academic year. pic.twitter.com/Dfg1Z57ykY— Big Ten Hockey (@B1GHockey) March 23, 2016
Once the precedent was set with lacrosse, adding Johns Hopkins for both men and women, it was not that much of a stretch to include Notre Dame for ice hockey. The Big Ten was okay with six teams, but it needed to spice things up and expand its offerings.
Big Ten Hockey didn't necessarily have the power and clout that other conferences had. Sources indicated that a lot of hockey schools weren't happy when the Big Ten created its own conference, drawing several top programs away from existing conferences. Minnesota Michigan, and Wisconsin were runners up in 2014, 2011, and 2010 respectively. MSU won the Frozen Four in 2007.
And hockey, with the Big Ten the only "full time" conference with a hockey league, went through realignment like the rest of college sports once the six B1G schools left. It actually left Notre Dame out in the cold (yes, intended), forcing the Domers to scramble for a new home, which they found in Hockey East.
There are apparently some issues with ND's connection, notably its TV contract. NBC, which broadcasts all Irish home games in football, also picked up Hockey East's tournament.
The other issue is whether the Big Ten will expand again. Arizona State has hockey. D1 hockey in the desert. And they are looking for a conference. ASU, like Notre Dame, is an outlier in its own conference (PAC 12), being the only school playing ice hockey. They have been looking at various options as a conference landing spot. Would Jim Delany take in a PAC 12 school to give the Big Ten an even eight schools? And what about the PAC 12's network? NBC and the Irish didn't matter - or at least they worked out any challenges - so maybe the Sun Devils (that is way, way too hot sounding for hockey) will become another Big Ten affiliate member.
And what about Rutgers? The Ice Knights still play club hockey, but they have supporters who would be very interested in making hockey Rutgers' 25th varsity sport. On the Banks looked at this a year ago, and it generated some great conversation in the comments. There are a lot of logistics and financial issues to overcome, but it could be a very successful - even profitable - endeavor at Rutgers. And how great would it be hosting the Big Ten Hockey Championships at the Prudential Center?
No one named Pegula has been hanging around the athletic department offices, as far as we know. So, if there is to be hockey on the banks, the money needs to come from other sources. Rutgers is trying to raise over $100 million to address existing needs (and that number isn't even coming close to meeting all the current needs). So, how does hockey get "promoted" to the varsity team? Creatively. Private monies would be needed, and the people running the Rutgers Hockey program are ready to find those dollars. It just needs the okay from Rutgers Athletics.
The Frozen Four is April 7-9. It's being held in Florida! Tampa Bay, to be specific. The only thing truly frozen in Tampa are margaritas and the Buccaneers. New Jersey at least has natural ice during hockey season. The regional play starts this weekend in Cincinnati (that hockey bastion!), Worcester, Albany, and St. Paul.