April 23, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

BG Ramps Up Hockey-Saving Efforts

by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor

In an attempt to solidify the long-term viability of the Bowling Green men's ice hockey program, school athletic director Greg Christopher met with various alumni and other college hockey power brokers at the Frozen Four in Washington D.C. last week.

The meetings helped Christopher solidify a game plan he could take to the Bowling Green Board of Trustees, which is expected to convene in June to discuss the athletics budget.

The upshot was the formulation of two special groups, charged with coming up with plans and raising funds for two distinct parts of the process — renovating the BG Ice Arena, and endowing the team's 18 scholarships.

Among those at the meeting were George McPhee, a BG alum, 1982 Hobey Baker Award winner, and vice president of the Washington Capitals, along with other alumni. Also there were Steve Cady, chair of the men's ice hockey committee and assistant AD at Miami, and CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos.

The Ice Arena group will be chaired by Jack Vivian, who was Bowling Green's first head coach, and now is president of a company that builds ice arenas.

The other group will include the likes of Bowling Green's two other famous former coaches, Ron Mason and Jerry York, who are two of the top three all-time winningest coaches in D-I NCAA history. They will help reach out to older alumni for donations, something that everyone figures will have more success coming from those respected personalities.

"The concepts that were discussed, they're not rocket science," said CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos. "I call them blocking and tackling — fundamentals to be addressed. Rallying people in a market that we're in is not the easiest thing, so that presents challenges."

Bowling Green's hockey program came into jeopardy recently, as the school announced it needed to slash millions of dollars from its budget, including in athletics. Later, the university announced it would find the cuts across all sports, and not have to completely eliminate any one sport — at least for this year — pending a review, giving time to find a longer range solution.

Among the others helping to determine long-range plans for the 46-year old arena are Jill Carr, assistant vice president for student affairs and dean of students at the University; and Dave Ellett, a long-time NHL defenseman and member of the 1984 BGSU national championship team.

“For the arena to be viable, we need alumni, youth hockey supporters and the entire community to step forward,” BG president Susan Cartwright said. “This outstanding group of people is a good start. They bring to the table the types of experience we need to evaluate the challenges and provide workable solutions.”

To remain a Division I school, Bowling Green must support 16 athletic programs. It currently has 18. Further, to remain a member of the Mid-America conference, BGSU must sponsor football, men's and women's basketball, and baseball. That limits the school's options.

"One message I heard crystal clear is Bowling Green does not want to drop hockey. I really believe that," Anastos said. "For this particular AD and administration, they have to deal with these tough circumstances.

"Someone comes to you and says you need to cut a million dollars (from the budget) — to balance those needs of those sports, and hitting that number, you don't have many sports to look at."

Cady has the experience of going through a similar process at Miami, which like Bowling Green, is an Ohio public institution.

According to Cady, it takes approximately $460,000 to endow one scholarship. That means it's about $10 million to endow all 18. Miami has currently endowed nine of 18, and is working towards the day that all are endowed. This enabled Miami, in the '90s, to get away from the brink of financial hardship, get stability, gradually become the program it is today, and theoretically sustain itself for the long term.

"Athletics programs across the country are trying to endow more of their programs," Anastos said. "Scholarships, coaching salaries, long-term facility renovations — that's a way that more schools are trying to position themselves to take advantage of endowments. That's something we spent a fair amount of time discussing. You can raise the dollars all up front, or there's formulas over time where it's a combination of up front donations and pledges."

In addition to the arena working group, NACDA Consulting, a national adviser on intercollegiate athletics, has been retained to help BGSU map the future of its athletic program.

According to BGSU athletic director Greg Christopher, the consultant has already begun to collect benchmark data, assess donor and fan sustainability, and develop institutional funding model comparisons.

NACDA will work with another University working group headed by Christopher to frame the options facing intercollegiate athletics at BGSU.

“Given the overall poor economy and the rapidly changing environment for college athletics, we are faced with making some hard choices,” Christopher said.

Cartwright has asked for a preliminary report from both groups by mid-May.

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