Penn State hockey moves to D-I

Updated: September 17, 2010, 12:17 PM ET
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

Penn State has made the long-rumored decision to take its men's and women's hockey programs from the club level to Division I.

The official announcement was made Friday.

East Resources Inc. president/CEO and Penn State alumnus Terrence Pegula has donated approximately $90 million to the university to build a facility and fund the hockey programs, the source said.

Penn State assistant athletic director Jeff Nelson said via e-mail the university had no comment.

Pegula is a Pennsylvania native who has been working in the oil and natural gas industry for more than 35 years, according to a personal biography on the East Resources company website. On May 28, Pegula announced the sale of his company to Royal Dutch Shell for $4.7 billion.

On Aug. 6, the Altoona Mirror, citing an unnamed source, reported the university was "close" to finalizing a decision to build an ice hockey arena near the Bryce Jordan Center and adding Division I men's and women's hockey programs.

In the story, the newspaper cited Pegula as a possible financier of the project, quoting its sources as saying, "We do have a donor that's got the capacity to do this, but there is no agreement yet."

Five Big Ten schools play Division I men's hockey teams. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State compete in the 11-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association. Minnesota and Wisconsin skate in the 12-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

The Big Ten, which is scheduled to expand its membership to 12 when Nebraska joins in the 2011-12 school year, now could decide to begin its own hockey league.

That could create a domino effect for college hockey throughout the Midwest.

Both the CCHA and WCHA have expressed interest in adding Penn State.

"They are a very attractive choice -- very attractive," CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said earlier this month, according to the Detroit News. "They're in a different market than we're in, more and more U.S. players are on college rosters, and there's tremendous growth of the sport in Pennsylvania."

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod told Inside College Hockey that "we certainly acknowledge the fact that we have had direct contact from a WCHA standpoint with Penn State. We're all well aware of the ramifications & of having a sixth Big Ten hockey school, and what that means for a lot of us."

There also has been some speculation other Big Ten schools might decide to take their hockey programs to the highest level sometime in the near future.

E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.