Friday, April 15, 2011

The Ball Keeps Rolling

John Davis helped bring Penn State this banner. Will a goalie using his scholarship help bring another one?

Penn State announced today that former Icers goalie John Davis along with his wife Karen and family have made a sizable donation to the hockey program.
The family's gift will endow a full position scholarship for a goaltender as well as the naming gift for the men's hockey head coach's office. The office will be named the "Joseph M. Battista Head Coach's Office" in honor of former Icer head coach and current Associate Athletic Director for Ice Hockey Operations Joe Battista.
Pretty cool, congratulations are obviously in order to all involved, as well a huge thank you to the Davises. Battista deserves much more than that named after him, so hopefully the person rich enough to get naming rights on one of the two ice sheets in the Pegula Ice Arena pulls a Davis-level solid. With all the credit appropriately given to Terry and Kim Pegula, let's not forget that they don't exist to us without Battista. For his part, Battista was very Battista-like about the honor.
"I was pretty emotional when John told me of his plans to name the coach's office after me," said Battista. "I tried to talk him out of it. I wanted the office to at least have his family name on it with mine, but he declined and said he wanted my name alone. I was speechless. I am incredibly honored by what John and Karen have decided to do by naming the men's head coach's office after me, and I thank them for their generous gift to the campaign."
Here's a little on John Davis' hockey career.
A member of the Icers from 1981-85, John Davis was the starting goaltender on the club team's 1984 national championship team. He was named Rookie of the Year his first year and also earned All-Star Goalie honors. His 42-19-2 career record made him Penn State's leader in that category when he graduated. He was inducted into the Icers Hall of Fame in 1996. Davis and Battista played together in 1981-82.
The Davis' ability to make donations large enough to get things named after them comes primarily from the gas industry - sound familiar? - so get ready for all kinds of awful wordplay from mediocre journalists ("Penn State turned up the heat in the second period," etc.).

Check out the story for more biographicals, as well as plenty of quotes from all the principals.

This donation, together with the Silvis donation, and of course the Pegula donation put a larger question in my head: has any college sports program ever made waves like this before even playing its first game? First off, the last major-conference (for non-hockey sports) school to start an NCAA hockey program was Ohio State in 1963. So the fact that a school of PSU's ilk is doing so is newsworthy in and of itself, since of course, most large universities in the northeast and midwest have sponsored the sport since the days of yore. Whatever "ilk" and "yore" even mean.

And of course, this major program is getting jump-started by roughly $100 million in private donation money. Three quarters of that will be used to build the best facility in the country, while the rest will do things like endow the Davis family goaltending scholarship, which of course helps ensure the program's financial viability past the start-up.

Finally, there is a piece of this affecting all of college hockey: namely, the Big Ten. There hasn't been a conference shakeup like the one coming in college hockey in almost 30 years, when a bunch of ECAC schools split off and formed Hockey East. And that, frankly, wasn't on the same level in terms of far-reaching implications.

Back in the formative period of TYT, a Wisconsin blogger called Penn State (in the comments) the "St. Cloud State of the Big Ten." That chirp was based largely on the Huskies explosive entry into Division I in 1987-1988 (and a perceived less-than-explosive couple of decades after that, although I think they've done pretty well for a new-ish DI). SCSU had Herb Brooks on board to help. And they eventually (in 1989-1990) had a sparkling new arena, courtesy of a state initiative to build Olympic training facilities around Minnesota. Probably unknown to that Wisconsin loyalist was the fact that former Icers coach Morris Kurtz was St. Cloud's athletic director during the transition.

Of course, the National Hockey Center, capacity 5,763, was built at a cost of $9.5 million - or about $16.5 million today, adjusted for inflation. This is a brave new world, indeed. Thanks again to the Pegulas, the Silvises and the Davises for helping to make it happen.

1 comment:

  1. The support for the hockey program at Penn State has been incredibly impressive from an outsider's perspective.

    P.S. Thanks for the blogroll shout out!