After years as a club team powerhouse, Penn State University is expected to announce the formation of a Division I men’s hockey team on Friday.
“It’s not news that Penn State has been trying to make the leap to Division I for two decades,” said an insider.
The last time a serious effort for a Division I hockey team was put forth was in the 1990s, particularly after Penn State joined the Big Ten conference in ’93. But the big holdups have been money, politics and Title IX – which mandates equal scholarship opportunities for both genders.
According to the source, the breakthrough now comes in the form of a big donation from a Penn State alum, earmarked for a hockey team. The money will be used to endow scholarships and possibly help fund a new arena. The Nittany Lions club team currently plays at a 1,400-seat arena on campus, but a building in the 6,000-8,000 seat range would be more applicable, said the source.
And with that money, the political barrier also falls. The only thing left to deal with is Title IX and though simply icing a women’s team seems like the easy answer, the source said options are still being explored – a different sport for female student-athletes is also possible.
As a state university, the men’s hockey team decision must go through the board of governors and the minutes of that meeting must be posted before anything is officially made public, hence the expected Friday announcement.
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.