When the Arizona State University Sun Devils announced last year that they would be the first Pac-12 athletics program to launch an NCAA Division I men’s hockey program, the hope was that the move would embolden other Pac-12 schools to eventually join them on the journey.
While there haven’t been any imminent plans from any other Pac-12 athletic department since ASU’s announcement, there are certainly some good candidates around the conference that could make an eventual jump to Division I.
Some in the Seattle area have been campaigning for a National Hockey League team of their own, but if the Huskies went Division I, it would surely elevate the hockey profile of the area and support the argument that they deserve a professional team even more.
But while Seattle doesn’t have an NHL franchise, the state of Washington does have some Western Hockey League teams. Washington currently has a Division II team that competes at the club level of the American Collegiate Hockey Association in a conference called the Pac-8.
If there’s a public university in the conference that could sustain the costs of making the jump to the NCAA Division I ranks it would be Oregon. The Ducks seemingly have unlimited resources due to Oregon alum and Nike mogul Phil Knight, and one would think that the team could simply tap into the deep financial resources that the athletic department has been granted in recent years under Knight.
Like Seattle, there has been some noise recently about Portland (which is about two hours away from Eugene) eventually landing an NHL team. Joining ASU in Division I would help Oregon, a state that already has a Western Hockey League team, raise it’s “hockey profile” some more.
And imagine those sweaters…
And if there’s a private university in the conference that could quickly cobble together an NCAA hockey program it would arguably be USC. The Trojans, who are right in the middle of a budding hockey scene in Southern California with two NHL teams in their backyard, a crop of talent from the area finding a way to get noticed by scouts and now American Hockey League teams in the area, a D-I program seems like the next logical step.
The biggest thing working in USC’s favor? It’s location. Who wouldn’t want to play hockey at the University of Southern California? Their most recent roster on their club team’s website has players listed from Canada, Finland and even Russia.
Colorado’s move to the Pac-12 has had it’s share of tough moments, but joining ASU hockey at the NCAA Division I level would seem like a logical move, especially considering the state is considered a more “traditional” hockey location and there’s already other D-I programs in the state like Air Force and Denver University.
The Buffaloes do not compete in the Pac-8 and instead compete in the ACHA’s Divison I Western Collegiate Hockey League, along with schools like Arizona, Oklahoma and Colorado State, so a move to D-I would be the next logical step
There probably isn’t a university ASU fans would like to see make the jump to NCAA Division I more than the University of Arizona. And why not? It would take the rivalry between the two schools to a new level.
The Wildcats’ Division I ACHA program is well established and they routinely fill the Tucson Convention Center for games. The University of Arizona brand is well-embraced in Southern Arizona and the locals would treat a D-I program, the next step up for the Wildcats, like an NHL team.