It was only a matter of time.
Arizona State Sun Devil hockey will phase into Division I competition over next 3 years by playing hybrid schedule. In 2015 the plan is a mixture of D1 and ACHA completion, then in 2016 full NCAA DI schedule independent of conference alignment, and then the school plans to transition to full D-I membership in 2017 with conference alignment and competition.
Arizona State has had a tremendously successful club hockey team for years now. The Sun Devils are the defending national champions in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, which governs non-varisty college hockey. They are also currently ranked No. 2 in the ACHA Division I, which includes teams from schools like Illinois, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Ohio University and Arizona.
Arizona State will become the Western-most team in the lower 48 in college hockey, but will not be the first school in the state to try their hand at Division I hockey. Northern Arizona University sponsored Division I hockey for five seasons in the 1980s before the program folded.
Penn State was the last “power conference” school to add hockey. They opened play in 2012-13 and their addition triggered the arrival of the Big Ten’s hockey conference.
If persistent rumors are to be believed, Arizona State will not be the last big school to add NCAA hockey to their athletic offerings in the next few years. Several other large schools are looking at adding programs within the next 3 to 5 years.
The move was made possible by private donations of $32 million by a group of hockey supporters, including Don Mullett, the father of former Sun Devil hockey student-athlete Chris Mullett.
Arizona State will also have to add another women’s sport to remain Title IX compliant. What that program may be is yet to be disclosed.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher