After much speculation and months of rumors, the final word is in. Current ACHA DI Champions, the Arizona State Sun Devils, will be making the jump in to the NCAA DI hockey world. The Sun Devils will be the 60th team to join the NCAA ranks and is the first Pac-12 school to house a hockey team. They will have the distinction of holding the southern-most and western-most DI team in the continental United States. Starting next season, ASU will mix some NCAA games into its schedule along side ACHA teams. More than likely, ASU will schedule Colorado College or the Air Force, who are their closest NCAA competition. Other NCAA schools nearby for ASU would be Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage, Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota. The Sun Devils will be fully transitioned to NCAA DI by 2017 with conference membership and competition.
For southern hockey fans, in particular southern college hockey fans, this looks to be a great start to a hopefully bright future. While the area is thought to be a wasteland as far as the puck in concerned, the legitimacy that ASU brings to the table can help other schools maybe pull in donations as well, to make the leap. With the largest monetary donation in school history, the Sun Devils received $32 million to fund the transition. Don Mullett, of the Bradley Corp. based in Milwaukee, WI, headed the donation drive. The Mullett’s are a supportive hockey family and son Chris Mullett is a former Sun Devil hockey player.
Playing with the big boys comes with a heavy price tag. Penn State was the last team to make the leap, in 2012. A $100 million donation for a new arena helped the Nittany Lions Men’s and Women’s ACHA teams to make the jump to the NCAA. ASU will still have to transform one of it’s women’s team sports, which is close to being named.
Congratulations Arizona State! Make the Western Collegiate Hockey League proud.