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WCHA names Bemidji State's Dill as interim commissioner, pumps the brakes on a national search

The WCHA will wait until at least spring 2023 to hire a permanent commissioner with the NCAA's transformation committee considering radical changes to the future of college athletics. For now, former Bemidji State athletic director Tracy Dill will serve as the replacement for Jennifer Flowers.

Retiring Bemidji State director of athletics Tracy Dill speaks during his retirement party
Former Bemidji State director of athletics Tracy Dill will take over as interim commissioner of the WCHA on Aug. 1, 2022, replacing former commissioner Jennifer Flowers. Dill retired from the Beavers at the end of June.
Madelyn Haasken / 2022 File / Bemidji Pioneer
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Citing a murky picture of what NCAA Division I athletics could look like in the future, the WCHA has decided to “pump the brakes” on its search for a new commissioner.

Former Bemidji State athletic director Tracy Dill was announced as the league’s interim commissioner on Tuesday. He takes over from Jennifer Flowers, who resigned after three years with the WCHA to become the athletic director at Southwest Minnesota State.

Dill is a familiar face in the WCHA, having served as AD of the Beavers for the previous nine years. He retired from BSU and a 40-plus year in college athletics on June 30. He is scheduled to begin serving as interim commissioner on Aug. 1 and will likely to remain in the role through the 2022-23 season.

“Jen Flowers did a terrific job during her time with the WCHA and has put us in a great position to continue as the premier women’s college hockey league in the country,” Dill said in the announcement. “The bar has been set pretty high and I look forward to working alongside our talented and dedicated staff to uphold those standards.”

Jennifer Flowers helped navigate the WCHA through the COVID-19 pandemic, expansion and the end of the men's WCHA. She also continued the league's winning tradition with back-to-back national championships, and worked to elevate the profiles of the league's student-athletes.

Kevin Busiman, the chair of the WCHA board of directors and athletic director at Minnesota State, said in the league’s announcement that the WCHA will “likely” begin a national search for a permanent replacement next spring.

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The reason for the delay is because of the ongoing work by the NCAA Division I Transformation Committee, a group of Division I university administrators and presidents charged with tackling the issues that challenge modern-day Division I athletics.

“We feel we are moving in a direction of deregulation that may create a different type of responsibility at the conference office level,” Busiman said. “There are also some uncertainties about how potential changes regarding roster sizes, scholarship allowances, and staffing plans will impact hockey, as well as other sports. We need a clearer picture about multidivisional status and single-sport conferences. All of these issues will eventually resolve, but the group felt pausing right now and pumping the brakes on a national search was the right approach at this time.”

As reported by the Grand Forks Herald back in April , topics being discussed by the transformation committee that could impact hockey include the elimination of scholarship limits and caps on the number of full-time coaches. Changes to the transfer portal are also being discussed, as well as the future of single-sport conferences — like the WCHA — in the governance structure of college sports.

Half of the current WCHA membership are schools that compete exclusively at the NCAA Division I level while the other half are Division II schools that play up in hockey. The four Division II members — Minnesota Duluth, Bemidji State, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State — are members of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference while three of the Division I schools — Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State — are part of the ever-expanding Big Ten. The newest member of the WCHA and NCAA Division I, St. Thomas, is part of the Summit League.

“At some point, the work of the NCAA’s transformation committee will provide a much clearer picture about the future of intercollegiate athletics and will help better define the landscape we will operate in and the skill set we are seeking in our next leader,” Busiman said.

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Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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