Ryan Kennedy of THE HOCKEY NEWS reports that Penn State will announce on Friday it is officially fielding a Division I men’s hockey team.
(Penn State has long fielded a powerhouse club team)
Kennedy noted that a large donation “earmarked for a hockey team” was the impetus for the move and could fund scholarships and a new hockey arena. Perhaps not coincidental to Penn State’s move, the NCAA’s 2013 and 2014 Frozen Fours will be held in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, respectively.
To fulfill Title IX requirements, Penn State is also considering fielding a women’s team but at the very least will have to add the same number of female scholarship athletes to the school’s athletic program as male hockey scholarship players.
The school’s Board of Governors is expected to sign off on the plan as soon as tomorrow with an announcement on Friday.
Penn State’s adoption of D1 hockey is no surprise and has been rumored for some time. Hockey News reporter Kennedy also noted that the Big Ten conference may have interest in fielding its own hockey conference with games televised on the conference’s television network.
The team would likely play as an independent in its first season (though the year has yet to be determined), but already speculation is rampant that a Big Ten hockey conference will be formed, alongside Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota from the CCHA and WCHA conferences. This arrangement is reportedly coveted by the Big Ten cable TV network.
Shawn Windsor of the DETROIT FREE PRESS reported today that a Big Ten hockey conference has non-Big Ten collegiate hockey teams concerned - along with the leaders of existing college hockey conferences.
Penn State appears to be adding a hockey program, leading to speculation that the Big Ten might form a league in the sport and cripple the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Currently, five Big Ten schools play hockey: Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the CCHA and Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA. PSU would make six, the minimum required for a conference to have an automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.
“We’re all well aware of the ramifications … of having a sixth Big Ten hockey school, and what that means for a lot of us,” WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod told insidecollegehockey.com, which reported Penn State’s plans.
Last month the DETROIT NEWS reported CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos making it known he would accept Penn State as the 12th member of his league:
“They are a very attractive choice—very attractive,” Anastos said. “They’re in a different market than we’re in, more and more U.S. players are on college rosters, and there’s tremendous growth of the sport in Pennsylvania.”
That move could possibly stave off a Big Ten hockey conference for now. But as hockey could be a huge programming add for the Big Ten network, especially in lieu of northeast cable system providers, it may be inevitable that the Big Ten will soon launch a hockey league for its members.