Hmmm, and what might this be about?
No, the NHL isn’t going to play sugar daddy to schools looking to go D1. But they are willing to kick in some funds for feasibility studies, and for some schools (holds mirror up towards Piscataway) that could mean a fresh and thorough look at an interesting idea. It’s an idea we’ve been talking about for at least two years.
Kudos: to nik12 for putting out a Fanpost last Friday on this. We were on our way but were following up some leads....yeah, we really do that!
Five schools will receive around $20,000 each to analyze the issues surrounding an upgrade to a D1 program; the University of Illinois was the first. From the College Hockey News story:
"The idea of varsity hockey at the University of Illinois has great appeal," Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. "With hockey's popularity in both Chicago and St. Louis, and rapidly growing youth participation across the state, we anticipate tremendous interest in the sport at our university."
That does not mean that it will happen for the Illini, despite a very successful club program. The Illinois assessment will address the same issues that face Rutgers, and other schools, that are considering a move: one-time and annual expenses, funding opportunities, facility needs, Title IX considerations, and community support.
While Rutgers is not saying it would add hockey, it has received data and had conversations with people who are interested. And while none of them are named Terry Pegula, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in and around New Jersey who wouldn’t want to see Rutgers competing in the Big Ten in hockey and be willing to support it.
Even at Illinois, which was willing to participate in the study, there is no guarantee of hockey becoming a varsity sport. "There are many questions yet unanswered, the biggest being funding for such an ambitious project," Whitman said. "But by engaging in this evaluation in such a public manner, our hope is that it helps us identify those from the hockey community who might have an interest in supporting this initiative. We believe it could be transformative for our athletic program, our university, and our community."
The other four schools that will participate in the study have not been named yet.
There’s more that is just coming out, including another school that might get the study as well as the NCAA’s interest in growing the sport. OTB will be on the case.