College hockey just got a little warmer.
On Tuesday afternoon, Arizona State University announced to the college hockey world its intentions to elevate its ACHA club team to Division I status thanks to a $32 million donation from Milwaukee businessman Don Mullett, who is the father of former Sun Devils player Chris Mullett, and several other contributors.
The Sun Devils, who have had a successful club program through the years, will begin play in 2015-16 with a mixed schedule between ACHA and Division I teams. After that, Arizona State will play a full Division I schedule as an independent for 2016-17 and ultimately join a conference the season after.
“Like I said, we have a lot of heavy lifting to do, but what this does is it represents what ASU is all about because we're entrepreneurial, we're proactive, we're innovative,” ASU athletic director Ray Anderson said at a press conference on Tuesday. “We want to provide more opportunities for our student‑athletes and for our community, so it's yet another example of what ASU does and who we are, so it's a proud, proud day for us.”
Greg Powers, the team's current coach, will keep his position when the transition is made.
The $32 million is not intended for a new arena, though.
Arizona State already has an arena that has 7,000 seats as well as access to the US Airways Arena, where the NBA’s Suns play.
However, administrators said they would like to build an on-campus arena, similar to the one at Penn State. The Nittany Lions, who received more than $100 million from Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula, built a state-of-the-art facility next to the school’s football and basketball stadiums.
It’s unclear what conference the Sun Devils will be joining, but it appears they will play in either the NCHC or WCHA as the only Pac-12 school with a varsity Division I program.
Anderson said there has been support from the Pac-12.
“When we first notified them that we were contemplating varsity hockey, they were as supportive as any group we've had contact with,” Anderson said of the conference. “They will individually after this domino, go to the other schools and invite them to consider very seriously upgrading or adding varsity hockey.”
More information on the announcement can be found here.