Thanks for your thoughts. Always good to read what you have to say.
This feels more like a temporary step back than a long-term stagnation of college hockey out west. The immediate catalyst, of course, being the budget crisis in Alaska. If I were the AD at any of the 7 departing schools, and two of the teams said they were moving to tiny arenas that are inadequate for modern D-1 hockey, I would have kicked them out (aka leave the WCHA). UAH's non-inclusion feels more fixable, as in a way to put external pressure in support of UAH proposals to their governance in Alabama.
It was only 20 years ago that Mankato became a full-fledged member of the WCHA, and there's been a steady increase in D-1 teams out west, going back to Omaha and Bemidji as well. And there are certainly other good candidates, starting with natural rivals of Arizona State: UA and UNLV.
I disagree with "the NCHC has a fear of others bringing them down". The record indicates "sick of being dragged down by other schools that disagreed with their views of how to move forward." (Read Schlossman's excellent series on the history of the formation of the NCHC, including the part about expletive ridden tirades and the failure to replace a failing Commissioner.)