The American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) is a college ice hockey association. It is one of three major associations that organize college hockey, the other two being the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The ACHA’s purpose is to be an organization of collegiate affiliated programs, which provides structure, regulates operations, and promotes quality in collegiate ice hockey.
The ACHA currently has three men’s and two women’s divisions and includes approximately 450 teams from across the United States. Teams offer few athletic scholarships and typically receive far less university funding.
The ACHA offers an opportunity for college hockey programs that struggle with large budgets and Title IX issues, as an alternative to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) financial structure. Sometimes, NCAA and ACHA teams will compete against one another.
The interest in college hockey has grown as the game of hockey has grown in the United States. But as aggressively as the sport has grown at the grass-roots level, the number of NCAA programs has not expanded as rapidly to meet the demand as these youth players reach college and look to extend their hockey-playing experience. This is why the ACHA level was created.
The ACHA’s primary mission is to support the growth of two-year and four-year collegiate hockey programs nationwide. The ACHA identifies standards that serve to unite and regulate teams at the collegiate level. The ACHA emphasizes academic performance, institutional sanction, eligibility criteria, and standards of play and opportunities for national competition, and the ACHA promotes all aspects of collegiate hockey stressing the personal development of individual athletes as well as national recognition for member organizations. In order to do this, the ACHA has developed organizational by-laws and a Policies and Procedures Manual to provide the policy foundation for the organization as it works to fulfill its purpose. These documents are reviewed yearly at the ACHA’s annual meeting.
The ACHA’s policies cover team and player eligibility, rules of play, ranking procedures, national tournament procedures, and other administrative issues, although the ACHA parallels the NCAA Division III with most eligibility requirements, recruitment processes, gameplay rules, etc. The league holds its annual meeting in conjunction with the annual convention of the American Hockey Coaches Association, in the month of April in Naples, Florida.