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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student


Big Ten could form ice hockey conference

The Big Ten made noise this summer with the addition of Nebraska and an overhaul of their football alignment beginning in 2011.

In the near future, the conference could also alter the landscape of an entire sport — ice hockey.

Penn State officially announced on Sept. 17 the addition of Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, raising the possibility of the formation of a Big Ten league for the sport.

“This leads to the presumption that there will be a Big Ten Men’s Ice Hockey Championship at some point in the future,” Scott Chipman, Big Ten assistant commissioner of communications said.

“A decision of that nature, however, cannot be made without a significant amount of discussion both internally, with conference chancellors, presidents, administrators and coaches, and externally, with the hockey community as a whole.”

The addition of Penn State makes a total of 59 Division I ice hockey programs in six conferences based on relative geographic location.

The addition of a Penn State varsity hockey team could possibly lead to the defection of Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin from their respective leagues to a new Big Ten conference.

Such a conference could be on the ice by the 2014-2015 season. With these six teams, the Big Ten would fulfill the minimum requirements to secure an automatic playoff bid.

The creation of a Big Ten conference would add a household name to college hockey that has been missing for years.

“The Big Ten teams, as far as college hockey goes, are huge in this country,” IU club hockey coach Jan Jas said Thursday. “The level of play would be unbelievable.”

The members of the IU club hope to be a part of that unbelievable play within the next three years, Jas said. However, a lot of construction work needs to be done first.

While the possibility exists for Indiana to sponsor hockey on the varsity level, Jas said numerous hurdles must be overcome.

“There are a lot of supporters, and a lot of people working to make this happen in the near future,” Jas said. “There needs to be more cooperation on the part of both the school and the league. A lot of construction needs to be done down the road.”

While the possibility of varsity hockey at IU is still alive, former IU hockey coach Rich Holdeman said the likelihood is not good. Penn State was only able to weigh the option of hockey with an $88 million donation from Pennsylvania businessman Terry Pegula.

The donation figures to fund the construction of a 6,000- to 8,000-seat arena, an upgrade from their current facility which accommodates approximately 1,350.

“Something similar would have to happen for IU to contemplate this,” Holdeman said. “In other words, it is highly unlikely.”

The obstacles the IU Athletics Department would have to hurdle include, for one, the lack of a facility.

“IU is not likely to spend the money for a rink without a large donation for that purpose,” Holdeman said. “Even if someone gave money for a rink, it is doubtful that the University would like to get into the rink management business.”

Furthermore, the athletics department would have to consider adding both men’s and women’s ice hockey teams to stay in compliance with Title IX. Although ice hockey can be a revenue-generating sport at some schools, it is questionable whether it would be one at IU.

While the future of hockey as a varsity sport at IU remains up in the air, Holdeman said he liked the idea of Big Ten hockey.

“Overall, it would be a very exciting development for college hockey,” Holdeman said. “Getting the Big Ten playing as a conference should increase fan interest in the sport, and if it happened, it would create a real power conference.”

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