TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State Vice President of University Athletics Ray Anderson announced the elevation of the 2014 ACHA National Championship ASU Men’s Ice Hockey program to NCAA Division I status.
The announcement makes men’s ice hockey Sun Devil Athletics’ 23rd NCAA-sponsored sport. It was made possible by hockey supporters, including Don Mullett, the father of former Sun Devil hockey student-athlete Chris Mullett, who came together to donate $32 million to elevate the program.
“Head coach Greg Powers has built a powerhouse ice hockey program here in Tempe, and because of his work it was probably a matter not of ‘if’ but ‘when’ Sun Devil Hockey would be ready to compete at the highest level,” Anderson said. “I am grateful for the generosity shown by our hockey supporters to make this move possible, and I am hopeful that more members of the extended Sun Devils Athletics family will help us grow this program for the future.”
Arizona State is the first power-five conference school to add men’s ice hockey since the Big Ten’s Penn State added the sport in 2012. Sun Devil Athletics has also identified potential NCAA women’s sports to add, with a formal announcement coming at a later date.
“I am privileged to help usher in a new chapter for Sun Devil Hockey and help elevate the program into a position to compete for an NCAA Championship,” Mullett said. “Currently Sun Devil Hockey is dominating its competition. I can only imagine the success the program can achieve under Ray Anderson’s plan for the future of Sun Devil Athletics.”
En route to its first-ever ACHA National Championship, Sun Devil Hockey put together the best season in program history in 2013-14 with an overall record of 38-2-0. The team’s success under Powers, who joined the staff in 2010 and holds an all-time record of 147-25-8, has propelled the program into elite ACHA club status. Rewarded for Sun Devil hockey’s accomplishments on the ice, in 2014 Powers was named ACHA National Coach of the Year.
“The resources Sun Devil Athletics can provide will bring our program to new heights,” head coach Greg Powers said. “Within a few years of having 18 scholarships available, ASU will eventually compete at the elite level of NCAA DI Hockey and you will see the Sun Devils in the Frozen Four. Beyond adding the sport, there are now young men and women who have opportunities to compete for NCAA Championships and receive a quality education.”
Sun Devil hockey will phase into Division I competition over the next three years by playing a hybrid schedule in 2015 with a mixture of DI and ACHA completion, followed in 2016 by full DI schedule independent of conference alignment. The team plans to transition to full Division I membership in 2017, complete with the induction of the ice hockey team into conference competition. A more concrete operational and structural plan for Sun Devil hockey will roll out over the next six to nine months.
"I applaud Arizona State University for creating new opportunities for student-athletes," said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. "Thanks to today's announcement, more Sun Devils will benefit from the often transformative experiences and life lessons made possible by college athletics."
Prior to the addition of men’s ice hockey, Sun Devil Athletics added women’s sand volleyball in 2013.
According to USA Hockey, a record 519,417 amateur players were registered across the United States for the 2013-14 season, and of those, nearly 352,000 are under the age of 18. A total of more than 1 million people were involved in the game last season as either players, team managers, volunteers, coaches, officials and parents.
Hockey participation in Arizona has grown nearly 18 percent from 2012-13 to 2013-14 and now includes more than 4,800 participants.
"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," said Damani Leech, Managing Director of Championships and Alliances for the NCAA.
Half of the top 10 states that have produced the most current ASU undergraduate and graduate students rank in the top 10 of hockey participation in 2013-14, including New York at third, Pennsylvania at fifth, Illinois at sixth, California at seventh, and New Jersey at eighth.
In Illinois, there has been a growth of 36.5 percent in hockey players since 2008-09 and its numbers are approaching 30,000 total players. In California, hockey participation is higher than it has ever been and grew nearly five percent this past year and more than 18 percent from 2008-13. New York has more than 48,000 total players, and in Texas, participation at the youth level is booming and saw an 8.8 percent growth the past year.
ASU boasts more than 68,000 combined alums among the top 10 states for hockey participation in 2013-14, including nearly 38,000 in California, more than 7,000 in Illinois and more than 5,000 in New York.