The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has taken a major step towards sponsoring men's hockey starting with the 2013-2014 season, as the conference's athletic directors have recommended the initiation of Big Ten hockey to the conference presidents and chancellors. This effectively ends the worst-kept secret ever and months (actually, years - this stuff pre-dates Terry Pegula by about a decade or so) of pretty useless speculation and hand-wringing. While it's not officially official until a vote of the presidents and chancellors in June, that vote is a formality.
I'm not sure what's left to say at this point, so here's the entire press release.
Park Ridge, Ill. - The directors of athletics of Big Ten institutions which sponsor men's ice hockey unanimously announce their intention to recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June the establishment of men's ice hockey as an official conference sport for the 2013-14 academic year with participation by Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
The recommendation includes both the establishment of the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in March of 2014, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20-game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools four times (two home games and two away games). In addition, the Big Ten's men's ice hockey programs will continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of non-conference competition with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
In September of 2010, Penn State announced the establishment of men's and women's ice hockey programs set to begin competition in the 2012-13 academic year, giving the Big Ten six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.
Since Penn State's announcement, the conference has researched and investigated the establishment of men's ice hockey as a conference sport. The conference has sought input and communicated both internally with conference chancellors, presidents, administrators and coaches, and externally with members of the hockey community, including the CCHA and WCHA.
With the addition of Nebraska on July 1, 2011, the broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions will sponsor 298 teams with more than 9,500 men and women student-athletes competing for Big Ten Championships. The conference currently features 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women. The last official conference sport established by the Big Ten was women's rowing in the 1999-2000 academic year.Nice way to work around the fact that there are not, as of yet, formal scheduling agreements with the remaining CCHA and WCHA schools (as first reported by College Hockey News).
I've been against this idea more or less since I started TYT five months and one conference logo ago (while at the same time disputing its assumed effects on the rest of college hockey), but that's over now - time to board this train and see where it takes us. One early stop, in all likelihood, will be a pair of games against each future conference opponent in 2012-2013 (I don't know anything there, it just makes logical sense).
Like how I deftly linked more or less everything I've said about Big Ten hockey? Which quite frankly isn't all that much - I became so sick of hearing and talking about it, even pre-TYT, that I figured I'd just toss my official position out there early on, then defer to it whenever the occasion demanded it.
The women's program remains unaffected by all of this, since those sexists at Michigan and Michigan State don't have NCAA women's programs. It's widely assumed that PSU will be joining one of the existing eastern conferences, at least until the Big Ten puts some pressure on the holdouts to add women's hockey to get to six sponsoring teams. The CHA seems a likely destination, as the ECAC and Hockey East are saturated with 12 and 8 teams, respectively.
At some as-yet undetermined point this offseason, I'll run a series of five posts designed as sort of an introduction to our new, yet not new, conference rivals. Don't press me for a date, that's just something that popped in my head while I was writing this!