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NCAA Might Combine Division III Title Game with Frozen Four

In less than two months, the Division III Championships Committee and the Division III Management Council will vote on a proposal to have the Division III men’s ice hockey national championship game to be played the same weekend as the Division I Frozen Four according to a report on USCHO.  The committee will next meet Oct. 15-16, and if passed, the proposal will take effect beginning 2014 in Philadelphia.

Under the current Division III format, the semifinals and final is played in Lake Placid, NY to crowds of 2,100 and 3,100 for the semifinals and 3,300 for the title game. Prior to moving to the home of two Winter Olympic Games in 2008, the championship was contested on campus sites. It is anticipated that moving the game to the same place as the Frozen Four would expose the Division III game to crowds of 20,000 that regularly attend the Frozen Four. The Division III championship would be played on the Friday between the Frozen Four semifinal and final and there are currently no plans to move the semifinal to the Frozen Four site.

The 2014 host city, Philadelphia, has already signed off on the proposal and plan to include it in their planning and logistical development for the Frozen Four. It would be a boost for those attending the Frozen Four, which has struggled to find an event Friday night to entertain fans staying around for the national title game besides an awards show for players who won individual awards. From 2006-2010, a skills competition was held for selected men’s and women’s players who had no eligibility remaining from all three divisions. The 2011 Frozen Four hosted an open skating session for the public. This year’s Frozen Four in Tampa hosted an outdoor pep rally.

Other logistical problems affecting the Division III side would be the current three-week difference between when the championships are played. The Division III championship is currently played three weeks before the Frozen Four, the Division I is having their conference tournaments. Extending the season three weeks will require the NCAA committee to require teams not begin games until Nov. 1. Currently teams can begin practices and schedule games Oct. 15.

Combining championships isn’t new to the NCAA. Men’s lacrosse has played all three division championships at the same city since 2003, and beginning this year the Division II and III men’s basketball championship will be held in the same city as the Division I Final Four. Based on the comments seen on USCHO.com, some fans have proposed issues such as ticket availability and if they would be sold separately or packaged with the Frozen Four. Travel distance was also concerned as most Division III teams are in the Northeastern United States and how feasible would it be to travel to a city where there could be no Division III-participating schools within hundreds of miles as with Tampa hosting the Frozen Four this year.

The college hockey world will be centered around the state of Pennsylvania for the next two seasons as the next two Frozen Fours will be respectively held in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. In addition Penn State University becomes a NCAA member this year, playing as an independent this season before joining the Big Ten Conference next fall.

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