Penn State Moving to NCAA Division 1 in 2012-13
September 17th, 2010
Penn State President Graham Spanier (right) and Athletic Director Tim Curley (left) present Terry and Kim Pegula with Penn State Hockey Jerseys at Friday's Press Conference.
As was said earlier, "one of the worst-kept secrets in all of college hockey" was no secret anymore after today's announcement.
For the first time since 1946, Penn State will field a varsity ice hockey program starting with the 2012-13 season. Construction of a new, 5000-6000 seat arena will also begin soon with the hope of completion in Spring of 2014. The location of the new rink will be just south of Shields building, directly across the street from the Bryce Jordan Center.
"Today's events are the culmination of the hard work and dedication of the entire Icers' family" said Coach Balboni. "However, full credit must be given to Joe [Battista]. He has been instrumental in this whole process and I know that this day means more to him than any of us in this room".
Penn State Alum Terry Pegula (Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering '73), along with his wife Kim, have agreed to donate $88 million dollars to fund building construction and endow scholarships for the team. Mr. Pegula cited his days as a "rink rat" and seeing his son play hockey as the impetus for this donation. Well, that and a well-timed conversation with former Icers' Head Coach, Joe Battista.
"Money doesn't fall from the sky - or Harrisburg for that matter", Battista told him over dinner in 2006. After initial meetings with Athletic Director Tim Curley, Terry knew that it was going to take a lot more than he expected.
Terry Pegula addresses the media at Friday's Press Conference
Terry was founder/president/CEO of East Resources, INC - an oil and natural gas company based primarily in the Appalachian Basin. He recently sold the company and all the property to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion.
"We feel extraordinarily fortunate to have had great success due to the efforts of the exceptional management and fine employees of East Resources Inc., providing indigenous energy to the United States," said Terry in a written statement. "We want to share our success with the people of Pennsylvania and with the very institution that helped me obtain the tools to launch my career in the oil and natural gas industry."
During the press conference, Terry recounted meeting many in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization earlier in the week at a charity golf outing. From Mario on down to the coaching staff and players, they all mentioned to him how great it was to see his support of hockey in the Keystone State. "Maybe someday in these hills of Pennsylvania, we're going to find a [Sidney] Crosby," Pegula said, referring to the Penguins' superstar. "Hopefully, he'll play hockey for Penn State and I think that's awesome."
Icers' Head Coach Scott Balboni, Lady Icers' Head Coach Mo Stroemel, and Former Icers' Head Coach Joe Battista look on during the press conference
Finding a Place to Play
Reaction to the pending announcement has led many in the college hockey world to wonder if a Big 10 Conference is on the way in men's ice hockey. Penn State joins Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota as schools with varsity programs, making six total - the minimum number needed for holding a conference championship. While it seems like an easy decision, there are other considerations.
Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State currently play in the 11-team, Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA). Minnesota and Wisconsin play in the 12-team, Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA). Both conferences would lose significant revenue (more so with the CCHA) if the current Big 10 schools left to form a Big 10 Conference with Penn State. Tim Curley mentioned today that they will be "working with the entire college hockey community" from now until the time Penn State fields a varsity program to have "minimal impact on existing conferences".
As it stands, today - and keep in mind how very "liquid" the situation is - Penn State is slated to play an "independent" varsity schedule for their first two years. Speculation is that those seasons will include several visits to surrounding rinks (Hershey, Scranton, etc.) to play "home" games against bigger schools and still have home games in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
The New Lion's Den
Speculation on where the varsity teams will play has been rampant on the internet for the past several months. "Plans" ranging from a new facility by the golf course to by Medlar Field to resurfacing the Bryce Jordan Center have been discussed. However, the new home for Penn State Hockey will reside just south of Shields Building, where the Astroturf field hockey field is currently.
Floor Plans and Location for the New Penn State Ice Rink
Starting Monday, the University will be going through the formal process to hire a contractor to build the new facility. Once complete, it will be the only, full-size arena within 80 miles and will host not only Penn State ice hockey, but Penn State Figure Skating clubs and events, professional ice shows, exhibition NHL/AHL games, and public skating sessions. The fate of the Icers' current home, the Greenberg Ice Pavilion, was not addressed at the press conference.