Reggie Dunlop

February 15th, 2019 at 3:06 PM ^

How about a summary or something, OP?

Warren Hood, deputy director of athletics at Illinois, who is spearheading the project for the school, stopped short in recent days of saying that it’s a done deal, but he didn’t try to mask his optimism.

“We have been working with a number of stakeholders the last nine months and we have made great progress,” Hood said. “February is going to be a big month for us. We have a lot of final meetings with some partners and depending on how those go, we are hoping we can make a decision in April or May.”

Illinois’ plan calls for building a 5,000-seat arena on the edge of campus that will be used for volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics as well as men’s hockey.

Hood estimated the cost of the project would be $100 million. It had been reported that Illinois hoped to raise $50 million in donations, but Hood refers to that number as a “moving target.” 

"Initially we had hoped we would find a [major] donor similar to what took place at Penn State and Arizona State, but there aren’t many individuals who are willing to write those big checks."

“Right now our focus is more on community partners and people who would be involved with the facility itself, where it would have an impact on them.’’

Hood said that the last three months have been particularly encouraging, with conversations with potential community partners advancing from the talking stage to finalizing what the various commitments would be.


February 15th, 2019 at 6:21 PM ^

Can tell me where this thought came from or provide a source to get a more definitive answer?  The only reason I ask is because I've heard this a few times, yet I can't ever find any concrete information.  According to Nebraska's (Lincoln) head coach, he's not even sure of any such agreement.


"Of course, the topic of NCAA Division I hockey pops up for Taylor and his players all the time.

'I get asked about that, and then I hear that there was an agreement between Nebraska and UNO, when they dropped football, NU agreed to stay out of hockey, or that we can't do that move because of Title IX,' Taylor said. 'I honestly don't know, but we're getting along win the ACHA and having fun, and we're getting better every year.'"


Not saying there isn't an official agreement, but just curious myself.


February 15th, 2019 at 5:41 PM ^

Lincoln is one of the stronger USHL markets from an attendance POV.  I do think that UNL would be successful if and when they move to D-1.

I'm a little more leary on each of Illinois, Northwestern and Iowa:

(1) Illinois: Champaign doesn't seem to support UI sports that well (b-ball and football attendance).  They're too from Chicago to regularly draw from there.  And markets like Bloomington and Danville are close but also have had poor support for their USHL/SPHL/FHL franchises over the years.

(2) Northwestern: I'm sure they have the $$$, but seriously doubt they'll get a large fanbase.

(3) Iowa: Hockey would likely be the third most popular Hawkeye winter sport, behind wrestling and basketball.  That's a significant structural impediment to success.  They may be able to draw from Cedar Rapids (30 miles away) but Cedar Rapids has had only so-so attendance for their USHL team over the years.  If anything, I'd think Iowa State would be better than Iowa.


February 15th, 2019 at 8:51 PM ^

Illinois football and basketball have been lousy the last several years, which cannot help but affect the attendance figures.  (Though hoops may be about to turn the corner, finally)  Give them a decent team and Illini fans will show up.  The main question for me is whether or not there are enough hockey fans in the area.  I attended Illinois for law school and my impression was Illinois had a strong base of basketball fans but I saw little evidence of interest in hockey -- college or NHL.  You'll have students from Chicago and St. Louis show up, but the locals?  I don't know.

From what I can tell it looks like they are going to go ahead with this.  I hope it works out.

Bando Calrissian

February 15th, 2019 at 8:42 PM ^

What do you know about Northwestern in 2019? Google the university's financial situation. Even with the typical separation of athletic and academic financials, in the wake of the new athletic training facility, you're going to be hard pressed to see NU drop significant coin on starting a new varsity program. Particularly one with the start-up costs of hockey. NU is a university with an 11-figure endowment and a spending freeze. Hockey ain't happening.


February 16th, 2019 at 9:21 AM ^

I live in Champaign and the area [midtown] where they hope to build the stadium is one the city has hoped to revitalize for decades. The univ wants the revenue from renting out the facility on top of the sports revenue. The city will build a luxury hotel and other restaurants. It's a big money grab. 

The community isn't 100% behind this but there is a lot of recent momentum. You can read more details here




February 15th, 2019 at 4:28 PM ^

I still maintain the the big ten hockey conference is the worst thing to happen to college hockey since Steve Piotrowski retired.


That being said, since we're stick with it might as well expand. Illinois would be a good choice, and from what I recall, Maryland actually has a decent club team (as club teams go) with pretty good fan support. That doesn't always translate to a successful varsity team, especially in the quality of play department, but the fan support often carries over.


February 15th, 2019 at 5:07 PM ^

The ideal outcome would be the Big 10 realizes hockey is a massive failure and has materially injured the schools and college hockey generally.  But since it is all about the money and ego that will never happen.  So, might as well make everyone more miserable and welcome, Illinois, Maryland, and WTF Rutgers.  Come jump on this stinking sinking ship called Big10 hockey!  Misery demands company.  


February 15th, 2019 at 5:21 PM ^

100% agree.

The second worst thing was the NCHC that formed just afterward. The two combined leagues really put a hurting on the smaller hockey-only schools like Ferris, LSSU. BGSU almost folded its program.

Miami openly admits joining the NCHC was one of their biggest mistakes and now they and Western Michigan are stuck there for awhile with huge travel budgets and tough schedules.

Pio was a good ref too. The CCHA had some good ones with him and Shegos. Roger Graff... not so much


February 16th, 2019 at 9:05 AM ^

I know the Big Ten gets the brunt of it for starting the chain reaction, but the old WCHA schools were the ones that totally gutted the rest of the CCHA. Obviously, losing Michigan and MSU (and sort of OSU) was a big blow to the CCHA but as soon as it happened the remaining 'haves' in the WCHA kicked out the bottom feeders and raided the rest of the CCHA. All of the big programs in the Big Ten and NCHC screwed the smaller schools

I was tentatively pro Big Ten when it came out. I was excited for Penn State, hoped it would mean more TV exposure, and hoped we'd be able to maintain regular series with the Michigan schools. Unfortunately neither of those have really happened. I would be 100% in favor of just going back to the CCHA and WCHA, but it'll never happen

rob f

February 16th, 2019 at 11:46 AM ^

Me too, and I'll readily admit the selfish reasons for it.

When the CCHA existed, I was within driving distance of several Michigan road games every season.  That's a nice thing to have available,  knowing the unpredictability of Michigan winter weather.  While games at Yost back then were often sold out other than on the secondary market, when driving was good I could hop in the car and make it to several road venues and still find reasonably priced tickets.  WMU, for instance, is just 30 minutes away and cheap.

And TV coverage was better in the old days when the CCHA existed.  If there is one reason to hate the BTN, it's their disregard for B1G hockey and the fans who want better coverage.


February 15th, 2019 at 5:33 PM ^

(Nice to see you again, E)

I was in favor of the B1G move when it happened, but the negative effects have been very apparent. Worse TV options (even in Minnesota I used to catch a fair number of Michigan games on FSD due to the regional Fox Sports channels, certainly no fewer than now), fewer local rivalries, noticeable fan apathy in major schools; it hasn't been good.  

And I agree about this. We've got the teams, let's get more. The old system had its advantages, but the old conference alignment made it virtually impossible for teams to add college hockey and succeed. There are still issues (ASU still hasn't landed anywhere) but at least now B1G schools can add programs and know they have a place to play. More teams is better. 

And, FWIW, the tone of this article is very promising. 


February 15th, 2019 at 5:52 PM ^

I wonder whether the decreased TV options have anything to do with realignment, though.  It strikes me that I get many fewer Hockey East and ECAC games available to me during hockey season, and neither of those conferences have had a major realignment in the last 35 years.

Fan apathy is certainly up, but does that have to do with a general national trend in all sports except football, or is it unique to College Hockey west of the Ohio/Pennsylvania border?


February 15th, 2019 at 6:31 PM ^

That's a good question, one I haven't really tried to dig into. Because, naturally, I'm kinda apathetic. A quick look at HEA's television matrix suggests that NESN continues to broadcast a game or two a week, and NBC Sports Boston also picks up a few. That meshes with my recollection of HEA broadcasts back in the early 00s. 

Back then most of the WCHA games one could get in Michigan were Minnesota broadcasts, home and some road. Fox Sports Detroit had a good contract with the CCHA that basically involved either Michigan or Michigan State or both each week, showing games both nights. CBS Sports Network started to pick games up around then and they used to pick from all over the country, if I recall. 

My impression had always been that fan support was considerably stronger in the west, and that things have evened out. Watching BC games in the 00s when they were a dynasty, it was not uncommon to see significant tracts of unsold seats in their arena. Meanwhile games at Minnesota were officially sellouts, and Wisconsin regularly led the country in attendance by buttressing their numbers with huge turnouts at the Kohl Center for rivalry games. 

Now those arenas have unsold tracts just like the eastern schools do. 

The "general national trend in all sports except football" (I would add basketball, which sells fine in college and continues to be pretty good in most NBA markets) certainly does seem to have some potential in it. It's not just spectator sports, either. I've taken interest in sailing and skiing using relatively dirt-cheap options for both, and there's a lot of hand-wringing in those communities regarding diminished participation. These, like college hockey, are niche activities, and it seems that the niches are shrinking.

Perhaps these are symptoms of a wider change in the entirety of society that we might not fully comprehend yet. 


February 15th, 2019 at 10:59 PM ^

And, of course, you could watch 3 B1G/NCHC games today and 3 more tomorrow.  I really think the actual TV coverage has not gone down in either the East or the West.  Remember those CCHA games on FSD were mostly once-a-week telecasts.  This week 67 percent of the Big Ten games are on "national" TV (BTN, NBCSN) and next week it's 83 percent, and the final week of the season it's 75 percent.  Neither the CCHA nor the WCHA ever had TV coverage at that level.

I don't know about fan support; you might be right.  But citing the "sellouts" at Mariucci as proof of a lack of apathy a decade ago might be a bit of a stretch.  And yeah, the niches are shrinking everywhere.  


February 16th, 2019 at 7:02 AM ^

The rise of non-traditional powers using 22 and 23 year olds  has hurt the traditional powers with large fan bases alienating college hockeys base. I dont think this should be underestimated.

My extended family was huge into college hockey. Not so much anymore. And it came right around the time the B1G started and BU, BC, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and MSU type teams began struggling with teams of 18 yr old future NHLers competing against older teams full of 22 and 23 year old  career AHLers.



February 16th, 2019 at 9:11 AM ^

I'd love to see Illinois, but college hockey just hasn't felt the same since the Big Ten formed a league. I miss the CCHA schools and the big school-small school dynamic that played out nationally. I wish Minnesota and Wisconsin (and maybe Illinois?) would just go back to the WCHA/NCHC and the old CCHA+Penn State would get back together


February 16th, 2019 at 10:17 AM ^

The problem was that the WCHA/CCHA were both maxed out at 12 teams, which didn't allow expansion, and left new teams (UAH, ASU, maybe UI) without a natural conference. A side effect of B1G hockey is that 2 conferences went to 3, which gives each more breathing room (not to mention the opportunity for a complete round-robin in B1G play). The problem is that the conference spit was so unequal.

If I could snap my fingers and fix western college hockey, I would probably align geographically, keeping teams within the same state together. This isn't perfect but since this is a hypothetical exercise but it could work and allow manageable conference sizes while also keeping travel costs down (except for the Western schools, oh well nothing will work for them).

  • West: Alaska & Colorado schools (maybe include Air Force?), ASU, UNO, UAH (7-8 schools)
  • North: UND, all Minnesota and UP schools, Wisconsin (10)
  • East: 4 Michigan schools, Notre Dame, Ohio schools, Penn State 7 schools)


February 16th, 2019 at 12:19 PM ^

I hear the 12 team conferences were full argument, but the fact that no one seems interested in taking ASU puts a damper on it now.

I don't understand why 12 has to be the max though. I suppose for scheduling purposes, but why not do what B1G basketball does where you play some teams twice and some teams once depending on the year. With no research into this whatsoever, it seems like that could create a plausible way to have 14 team WCHAs and CCHAs


February 16th, 2019 at 2:30 PM ^

I'll grant you the ASU point, though I would argue that that has more to do with them being a new school a long way away from everyone else, and nobody (in particular the WCHA, which already includes the Alaska) wants to add the travel hassle. The NCHC is the logical conference (since they already include the Colorado schools) but they have no real incentive to let them in. It would be good for college hockey if they did though.

To the point on the oversized conferences - as a practical matter, it makes the conference scheduling and tournaments more difficult, I would think. Unbalanced schedules can never really be fair, and I don't think you would want a tournament to go longer than the three weeks the old 11-12 team CCHA tournament did. Those can be overcome, to be sure, but it's a consideration. Philosophically, a conference should be a close-knit collection of like schools, like the original Big Ten (football) conference, the Ivy League, etc. The sentiment lasted longer in hockey IMO than the rest of college athletics. Many people have nostalgia for the CCHA days because it was really cool for Michigan, MSU, OSU, and ND, all big famous schools, to play against Lake State, Ferris, and the others. For the small schools, it was their one chance to be on equal footing with the "big boys" and I think even Michigan fans appreciated it. It made college hockey different than every other sport. The B1G and NCHC each forming pulled the rug out from under those schools. I would rather have two 7-team conferences playing a full round-robin than a 14-team conference with teams that hardly play each other. Which happens to be an issue with the football conferences as currently constituted.