Penn State Ready to Play
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
For the last two months, we have been hearing about Penn State's impending creation of an NCAA Division I program. For people like us, who have been hearing (or wishing) about this possibility for 20 years, it's kind of like if someone finally discovered Atlantis.
The facts are this: Terry Pergula is a Penn State alumnus, and a big supporter of hockey. He recently sold land to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion in profit. He wants to take some of that money and give it to Penn State for the purpose of building an 8,000-seat (approx.) arena on campus in State College.
Now, this week, Inside College Hockey has reported that an announcement could come as soon as Friday. We haven't been able to independently confirm that yet, but there's no reason to doubt it yet either.
We know that the leagues have been talking about this seriously, which means, for the first time, this is well beyond the rumor stage and is going to happen. No one at Penn State will confirm it, but the college hockey powers that be are getting things in gear to deal with it. It's just a matter of when, and how.
Penn State would need more than just the arena, of course. It would also need to fund 18 men's and women's scholarships. But, as we have learned in recent years with situations at Miami and Bowling Green, a common funding method these days is to endow these scholarships. In other words, you start with some initial seed money, and the interest on that investment funds the scholarships each year. This requires an initial endowment of upwards of $10 million, but is do-able — and certainly is do-able with Pergula.
Whether this is the approach Penn State is taking or not, we're not entirely certain, but it seems to make sense given the environment of college hockey and Pergula's involvement.
So with those particulars seemingly lined up, now we just await the official word. When will the program start playing? When will ground break on the new arena?
But most importantly — the far-ranging ramifications question for college hockey as a whole — will Penn State join a conference, and which one?
Obviously, this is a prized, elite NCAA school that any conference would be crazy to reject. Its most logical home right now is the CCHA. It has an opening, and most of its schools are relatively close geographically. Certainly, Atlantic Hockey and the ECAC have a more natural geographic fit, but the CCHA has too much else going for it — such as three other fellow Big Ten teams, and the aforementioned opening.
I'd be willing to bet the ranch they join the CCHA sooner than later.
The question, however, on everyone's mind is whether the much-discussed, much-obsessed-about, much-feared Big Ten Hockey Conference will then ultimately come to fruition.
I've been on record here numerous times in recent years saying that a Big Ten Conference is OK for college hockey, not the disaster some people fear. But I think that it would be a few years to see how things shake down before the Big Ten, or the member schools, make a push for that.
Still, I'm also on record saying that such a conference is inevitable, and so you best prepare for it. And Penn State's eventual addition of hockey is part of what makes it inevitable.
So fasten the seatbelts, the ride is just beginning.