Column: Why shouldn't Arizona hockey move to Division I?
Arizona hockey forward Brian Hogan (6) practices with his teammates on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Hogan and the Wildcats are 2-1 to open the season.
Ever since Arizona lost to ASU’s new Division I team in Gila River Arena two weeks ago, many have been asking if Arizona will ever join the Sun Devils’ ranks in DI hockey.
The answer is not a simple yes or no.
It is time, however, for university officials to take a page out of ASU’s book to help elevate Arizona to the NCAA level.
ASU head coach Greg Powers is a major proponent of a varsity hockey team for the Sun Devils’ rival.
“Hopefully one day, they decide to do what we’ve done [in Tempe] in Tucson,” Powers said of the UA. “I would be such a huge advocate of that.”
Powers also thinks a DI team could work for the UA, given the school’s strong fan support and facilities at the Tucson Convention Center.
That’s where Arizona has a slight advantage over ASU.
The TCC was recently renovated, and as of the 2014-2015 season, the arena drew crowds of over 1,000 to games against Liberty and NAU.
Just after ASU made the jump to DI, a $32 million donation was made to the school to help pay for the elevation of the program, which was the school’s largest donation ever.
The Pac-12 Conference has supported ASU’s move to DI and even streamed the UA and ASU’s game on the Pac-12 Networks website two weeks ago.
The conference would be wise to help support Arizona’s move to the NCAA, given the very few teams on the West Coast alongside ASU.
“I think it would be great for the rivalry,” Powers said.
The last time Arizona will meet ASU in Tucson before the Sun Devils play a full independent schedule in 2016 will be Feb. 19. ASU will receive complete DI recognition in 2017.
Powers said the last meeting between the rivals will be bittersweet.
“I’m an alumni and really cherish this rivalry so much,” Powers said. “It’s always been a highlight and pinnacle of my season, as a coach and player, playing the UA.”
For Arizona coach Chad Berman, his focus is not on DI, but improving the program as is.
Berman cites Penn State and ASU’s programs’ stranglehold of the ACHA before they made the move to the NCAA.
“Our concern right now should be to taking the next step in the ACHA, dominating the ACHA, being a top-five team, winning a national title and then we can go from there,” Berman said. “I don’t see the point in looking past that.”
Arizona Athletics Director Greg Byrne told the House of Sparky in 2014 that, “Hockey is not on the radar screen for the UA.”
If Arizona were to make the leap to DI, however, it could be able to wrangle in top-level recruits with players picking warm Tucson over frigid Boston and New Haven, Connecticut.
The Sun Devils were able to lure in 17 new recruits when ASU announced its jump to DI. Arizona would certainly be able to follow suit.
With ASU being the 60th NCAA DI program, the 61st should be a team that would complement the Sun Devils on the West Coast.
As Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez once said, “Why not Arizona?”
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