Yesterday Arizona State announced that they'll be elevating their hockey program from club to DI, transitioning into a complete DI role over the next three years. Arizona State will be the 60th DI hockey program, the first since Penn State joined in 2011. It will be the third furthest west program in the country, behind only the two Alaska schools. It's new territory for the top tier of NCAA hockey, a huge step forward.
Of course when someone joins, many people's minds jump to wondering who will come next. Not surprisingly, the University at Buffalo has been a school at the center of the discussion. In a hockey city like Buffalo, it's almost ridiculous that there isn't a program set up already.
This city loves hockey, that's no secret. Isn't it a bit strange that it's largest school only has a club team?
UB athletic director Danny White told the Buffalo News in October that he gets questions about adding hockey all the time, but the university isn't considering it right now. He says it makes sense, but the school is still trying to become a football school, something that honestly likely will never happen.
UB is currently 4-6 in football, another mediocre year for the program. Although it has come a long way from where it started, there aren't any signs that the school is even close to becoming the next mid-major darling like TCU or Boise State.
Canisius and Niagara do rather well in hockey (both made the tournament two years ago) but lack the size, school ranking and funds that UB has. It could quickly become a powerhouse in the area. Just imagine the recruiting that the school would be able to conduct, both in this area and southern Canada.
According to Let's Play Hockey, a newspaper entirely about hockey, sources have told them that Terry Pegula is involved with trying to help elevate UB's program to DI. Pegula was the driving force behind Penn State beginning their program, helping construct the beautiful Pegula Ice Arena for the team to play in. His donation reached $102 million.
As much as we like to think that Pegula just wants nice things for the city, no one gets as wealthy as he is without being a good businessman. UB joining the party could be very beneficial to his previous investments. First of all, UB could also become a major tenant at the HarborCenter. They want to fill up as many nights as possible with events, and Canisius only plays so many games.
Pegula doesn't have ties to the school and probably isn't as eager to build them their own stadium as he was at his alma mater, but if the school decided to build their own rink it could still help out the HarborCenter. It'd be another big time draw at the gate, as games between UB, Canisius and Niagara would become can't miss hockey rivalries in Western New York. When UB visits Canisius, odds are it would sell out. The First Niagara Center could be an option for hosting some of the matchups as well.
UB has an opportunity to grab the bull by its horns and take advantage of being in a top market in the country. Buffalonians have shown that they'll watch other levels of hockey as long as they are competitive. They consistently attempt to increase their brand through football, which would be the biggest draw but is also most difficult to accomplish. There is no reason that football should get in the way of sports that could actually be very successful like hockey, or lacrosse, which follows most of the same logic plus the fact that there is already a field for them to play on.
But I guess the school is just too interested in losing to Baylor by 40 to make a move.