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Forum staff reports, Published February 27 2012

MSUM will not add ice hockey

Minnesota State University Moorhead President Edna Szymanski has announced that the school will not to add Division I ice hockey to its athletic program.

In a letter she released to the MSUM faculty, Szymanski said the school has fallen short of raising the necessary money to fund a Division I men's and women's hockey team "due to the current economic climate."

MSUM was hoping to raise $37 million to support an endowment-model business plan to sustain a hockey program.

The press release reads as follows:

Minnesota State University Moorhead President Edna Mora Szymanski announced today that the university will not add hockey as an NCAA intercollegiate sport because a required fund raising threshold has not been met and ongoing conference realignments.

The question of adding hockey has been under study on and off since 2009, and today’s decision means that the matter will remain out of consideration until economic recovery makes it easier for community partners who expressed interest in participating to do so.

“We had a business model that required a $37 million dollar endowment from private sources to support hockey and while the community response has been impressive, we have been unable to identify the full $37 million,” said Szymanski. “The endowment was necessary because in recent years, our legislative appropriation has gone down by $6 million and I cannot justify diverting tuition or tax dollars to a new intercollegiate sport. Our priority must be first and foremost on continuing to provide our students a great education.”

During the past year, the university engaged Collegiate Consulting to explore the feasibility of D1 hockey and former University of North Dakota Athletic Director, Carl Miller, to assist with additional exploration. In addition, they consulted with the System Office of the Minnesota State Colleges and University System along with the Chief Financial Officers of three System institutions with D1 hockey. These consultations led to the business model requiring $37 million dollars. The university then began consulting with various regional stakeholders, including the business community and alumni.

In addition to the financial implications of adding a premier sport, the decision was influenced by upcoming changes in conference affiliations. Membership shakeups from the formation of the Big 10 Hockey Conference and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference won't take effect until 2013-14, but the changes created a limited window of opportunity.

“I am proud of our effort and that the university had the vision and courage to think big in our never ending mission of serving our regional community,” said Athletic Director Doug Peters.

“We had a lot of great conversations on campus and off as we evaluated hockey,” said Szymanski. “I am particularly impressed by the number of individuals and businesses that said they wanted to partner with us. These conversations that started with hockey are continuing now on other potential partnerships. While the facts led to a conclusion we had hoped we would not reach, the process of asking the question made us a better university and more engaged community partner.”