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Mike McFeely, Published April 11 2009

McFeely: MSUM's enthusiasm good, but hurdles are high

Doug Peters is not a glass-half-full kind of guy. No, his glass is overflowing and spilling all over the floor.

So when the Minnesota State University Moorhead athletic director says the odds are 50-50 that the Dragons will add an NCAA Division I hockey program – both men’s and women’s teams – you have to take it with a smidgen of salt. What’s he going to say – that there is no chance?

At this very, very early stage, the realistic chance of MSUM becoming a Division I hockey school is more like 25 percent – and maybe less.

Not to throw a pair of soggy breezers on the community’s unprecedented love fest with MSUM, but this is not like going to the store and buying a loaf of bread. You can’t throw down a $5 bill and say, “This is what I want.”

We reiterate: Peters and his boss, MSUM President Edna Szymanski, should do everything in their power to see if they can make it happen. There is no negative for the Dragons. If they can pull it off, bully to them. If not, nothing lost. The sun continues to rise.

The hard-as-ice truth is that, of the 100 things that have to go right for the Dragons to field a Division I hockey program, two loom larger than others.

One is the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and the other is cold, hard cash.

The Dragons need to be accepted into the WCHA, or have a promise of membership, before this gets off the ground. Period. End of story.

That will not be easy, to put it mildly. The WCHA is a 10-team league that might be willing to expand to 12. Bemidji State has already applied for membership, and looks to have an inside track on acceptance, leaving one precious spot for the Dragons – or another team.

If MSUM can make headway and its membership comes up for a vote, 75 percent or more of the conference’s schools would have to approve. With 10 teams, that means eight would have to give the thumbs-up. That is a tall order for any school, much less a new-born program starting from ground zero.

Next is the money. Szymanski said Friday it would take $10 million to start the men’s and women’s programs. She and Peters are confident they could line up big checkbooks to pony up that sum at the drop of a puck. Maybe. You know the old saw: Show me the money.

We can add this caveat: And keep showing it to me.

The Dragons would need to sustain their fundraising over time. Peters estimated the cost of running a Division I men’s team is $1.4 million a year. That balloons with the addition of a women’s team.

Again, this is not like buying bread. It takes bread. Serious bread. It’s a question of sustainability after the initial hoopla wears off.

The enthusiasm and attention generated by MSUM’s pursuit of hockey is wonderful. If the Dragons nab a spot in the WCHA, it will be even greater.

Just keep in mind that the hurdles MSUM needs to clear to get there are not small. This is far from a done deal.

Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1-2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely