ASU hockey announces historic move to NCAA

ASU Athletic Director Ray Anderson explains how the elevation of ASU Men’s Ice Hockey program to NCAA Division 1 status at a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. The ASU Men’s Ice Hockey program is now added as a NCAA sport. (Photo by Ryan Liu) ASU athletic director Ray Anderson explains how the elevation of ASU men’s ice hockey program to NCAA Division 1 status at a press conference on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014. The move was possible thanks to a $32 million donation from Don and Chris Mullett. (Photo by Ryan Liu)

It's official: ASU has a Division I college hockey team.

ASU athletic director Ray Anderson announced Tuesday that ASU will be adding hockey as a NCAA Division I sport, receiving a $32 million donation from hockey supporters Don and Chris Mullett.

The $32 million donation is the biggest donation received in ASU athletic department history, Anderson said.

This is a big undertaking, as while many schools are cutting athletic programs ASU is only getting bigger.

"This is not a move without risk," Anderson said. "What this does is represent what ASU is all about, because we're entrepreneurial, we're proactive, we're innovative. We want to provide opportunities for more student-athletes and for our community."

Anderson said that ASU will phase their way into NCAA competition, playing a hybrid schedule in 2015 and an independent schedule in 2016 before receiving full Division I membership in 2017. ASU will continue to have their ACHA program, with the Division II Pac-8 team still providing a club option to student athletes.

Video by Stefan Modrich | Assistant Sports Editor

The Sun Devils will become the first NCAA Division I hockey program on the west coast, becoming the first school from a power-five conference to make the move to the NCAA level since Penn State joined the Big Ten conference in 2012.

The move was met with widespread support, with the Arizona Coyotes and fellow ASU athletics programs reaching out to congratulate the University on the move.

The ASU hockey team celebrates after winning its first national title at Fred Rust Ice Arena in Newark, Del. (Photo by Justin Emerson) The ASU hockey team celebrates after winning its first national title at Fred Rust Ice Arena in Newark, Del. (Photo by Justin Emerson)

"The NCAA is very excited to welcome Arizona State to the collegiate hockey community. We appreciate ASU's commitment to providing educational and athletic opportunities to more student-athletes. As college hockey continues to grow, this westward expansion of our footprint will do great things for the sport nationally," Damani Leech, Managing Director of Championships and Alliances for the NCAA said in an official statement.

ASU will bring coach Greg Powers to the NCAA level to the same position. He is in his fifth year as head coach after leading the program to a national title last year, and has a 147-25-8 record all-time. Powers is a former ASU goaltender, and is a member of the ASU hockey hall of fame.

Powers was humbled by the opportunity, and ready to take the next step as the first NCAA head coach in ASU hockey history.

"All I had was a diploma from Arizona State and a ton of passion for this school and this program that I still have, and (GM) Ken (Lind) believed in me," Powers said. "I want to thank our players. Our players are the main reason that we're here today. Those players believed in our vision for Sun Devil hockey, many of them giving up scholarship money."

Powers was confident that ASU will achieve success at the NCAA level, unlike many west coast NCAA programs that failed before them.

After senior forward Colin Heckle scored the game winning goal in overtime against No. 6 Delaware, the team celebrates at home in Tempe on Oct. 25, 2013. (Photo by Dominic Valente) After senior forward Colin Heckle scored the game winning goal in overtime against No. 6 Delaware, the team celebrates at home in Tempe on Oct. 25, 2013. (Photo by Dominic Valente)

"We're Arizona State," Powers said. "That's the difference. We're Arizona State, it's that simple. We're a large, successful, committed university. We're in a different market. It's a different time now."

With the addition of scholarships, ASU will have even more means to recruit elite talent to the desert.

"We have proven at the ACHA level with student-athletes turning down scholarships opportunities to come play here that we pushed the most unique college hockey experience in the country," Powers said. "Now we truly are the most unique college hockey experience in the country."

Don Mullett, the primary benefactor to the ASU hockey donation, was steadfast in his belief for the program moving forward.

"I have firmly believed, having seen and experienced growth in my family, there are many life lessons to be learned in being involved in a competitive sport, combined with the first priority of a better education" Mullett said.

ASU's club level hockey program is coming off of their first ACHA national championship in 2013-14 after posting a 38-2-0 record, and is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation.

Coach Greg Powers watches the ASU Division I team during practice in the 2013 season before the night’s game against UA. (Photo by Ana Ramirez) Coach Greg Powers watches the ASU Division I team during practice in the 2013 season before the night’s game against UA. (Photo by Ana Ramirez)

The program has yet to establish a location for a new home rink despite speculation that the team will play at either Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe or U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix. The team currently plays at Oceanside Ice Arena, which is a few miles off campus.

"The goal as coach is to get on campus as soon as possible," Powers said. "We immediately have a lot of viable options."

The move also opens the door for other west coast teams to make the move up to the NCAA level. UA and Colorado's ACHA programs are currently among the top 25 in the national rankings, and could potentially make the move as well.

"The Pac-12 Conference is certainly of the mind when it comes to this move," Anderson said. "Hockey, when run efficiently, is a revenue sport. It's a very TV-worthy sport as far as content for the Pac-12 Network. They're excited by those prospects in having others potentially join from our conference."

Senior forward Faiz Kahn is one of many Sun Devils who have seen the program reach meteoric heights.

"It's good to be a part of the group that built (the program) up to this point," he said. "It's going to be exciting to come back and watch the young guys next year and experience Division I hockey. It's a great day for college hockey."

For Kahn, the track record speaks for itself.

"I think we're ready," Kahn said. "We have the track record with the national championship last year, we've had a good year so far this year, and I only expect good things from (coach Greg) Powers and the young guys next year and on forward."

In accordance to Title IX law, ASU will have to add a women's sport to compensate for the added men's sport. Some sports that have been mentioned as possibilities include women's lacrosse and rowing.

ASU said that it will continue to roll out a structural plan for the program's transition to the NCAA level over the next six to nine months.

Reach the reporter at fardaya@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @fardaya15

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