DEARBORN, Mich. – The University of Michigan-Dearborn men's ice hockey team will move to the newly-formed NAIA Division of the American Collegiate Hockey Association beginning in the 2018-19 academic year, it was announced by the UM-Dearborn Department of Athletics & Recreation on Wednesday.
The Wolverines will move from ACHA Division I to the NAIA Division to compete alongside other NAIA member schools. The Division will continue to be governed by the ACHA, and operate under new Divisional By Laws. The NAIA will have no current governing affiliation with the ACHA teams that compete in this new division.
UM-Dearborn currently competes in the NAIA for all varsity athletics at the University, with the exception of the varsity club men's ice hockey team. With the addition of baseball and women's soccer in 2017-18, along with men's and women's bowling the following year, the Wolverines are set to compete in 12 NAIA sports during the 2018-19 academic year.
The proposed future goals of the NAIA Division within the ACHA is to push towards emerging sport status in the future with the NAIA. The 2017-18 academic year will be the first for the NAIA Division, with five teams participating, including Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference schools Aquinas College, Indiana Institute of Technology and Lawrence Technological University. The two remaining schools are Lindenwood University-Belleville (Ill.) and Waldorf University (Iowa).
According to NAIA Division Commissioner Ken Gaffney, UM-Dearborn will be among three schools joining the division in 2018-19. WHAC member Concordia University, along with one more program are set to begin competing in the NAIA Division at the same time as the Wolverines, bringing the total number of teams to eight for 2018-19.
"We are excited to welcome three schools for 2018-19, including UM-Dearborn," Gaffney, a member of the Wolverine men's ice hockey team from 1981-83, said. "It is extra special to have UM-Dearborn on board, as the school was a member of the NAIA (which sponsored the sport from 1968 to 1984) in the 1970s and 1980s."
UM-Dearborn finished as the national runner-up in 1980, 1983 and 1984 in the NAIA Men's Ice Hockey Championship.
Starting in 2017-18, the NAIA Division will hold a separate National Tournament in conjunction with all other ACHA divisions in mid-March in Columbus, Ohio, with all member teams invited to participate in the event. This coming season will also including the first WHAC Men's Ice Hockey Championship Tournament, which will include the Wolverines as a participant, along with Aquinas, Indiana Tech, Lawrence Tech and the conference's newest member Rochester College. The event will take place March 2-3, 2018 in Ft. Wayne, Ind., hosted by Indiana Tech.
Upon entering the NAIA Division, UM-Dearborn will be leaving the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League, with the last year of competition to be 2017-18 for the Wolverines, who are the two-time reigning GLCHL Playoff Champions.
The puck drops on the 2017-18 season for the Wolverines against Robert Morris University-Illinois on Sept 29 in Bensonville, Ill.