Kennesaw State DOA
by Adam Wodon and Moose Richards/CHN Staff
Kennesaw State has decided to discontinue its bid to start a Division I hockey program for 2006-07, a program that would have played in College Hockey America, sources have told College Hockey News.
"After a concerted five-month effort, Kennesaw State has declined our financial package to join the CHA for the 2006-07 season," said CHA commissioner Bob Peters. "The (CHA) athletic directors will regroup next week during a conference call, and will determine the next appropriate course of action."
College Hockey America will drop to five programs in 2006-07, when Air Force departs for Atlantic Hockey. A conference is required to have at least six teams in its membership in order to qualify for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
With this possibility looming on the horizon, CHA athletic directors voted in April to create a financial incentive package for any school that was willing to join the conference.
Kennesaw State, a school located in Georgia that just moved its athletic department up from Division II to Division I this year, was the only school to show serious interest in taking advantage of CHA's incentive package, and had been in discussions with Peters ever since.
But in order to be ready to play Division I hockey by September 2006, Kennesaw State would have to be ramping up soon, if not already. With that deadline lingering, a decision had to be made one way or another.
According to sources, Kennesaw State determined that it could not guarantee the long-term viability of the program. Though the incentive package would provide a kick-start, and the booster club was ready to contribute, Kennesaw State administrators wanted to feel better that the program could sustain itself on its own over the long haul.
In a recent interview, KSU athletic director Dave Waples suggested that finances could be a stumbling block.
"Other than football, hockey is the most expensive sport on a college campus," said Waples. "And while the budgets of the CHA members aren't what the budgets of some of the other more high-profile college hockey members, we're just trying to see if that amount of money is available to us. Most of it would have to be raised."
School officials had also been trying to lure local rivals into playing Division I hockey as well. Kennesaw State currently participates as club team with the likes of Georgia Tech, Florida State and Florida. Those attempts were unsuccessful, which may have played into the decision.
"Most of our budget comes from student fees, as it is from most smaller schools, and we used most of that last year, in fact all of it, to raise scholarships and to hire some people to improve infrastructure as far as personnel (for the move to D-I)," said Waples. "That left little or no money for the addition of any other sports.
"And now, we have gotten the rumor that there might now not be another fee increase coming next year because of various reasons. And we had planned on getting a good fee increase, had been promised a pretty good fee increase by the students at the University, but they don't have the final say on it, the Board of Regents does. It would be totally perilous for us to just announce we're going to start hockey without knowing where the money's coming from, and if there would be any available through the athletic department."
There is no word whether creating a varsity men's ice hockey program is still an option for the future.
"It's something we want to do, we sincerely think it would be fantastic, but we're not about to jump in the deep end not able to swim," Waples said.
[Check back for more details as they unfold.]