$32 million in donations puts ice hockey in play at ASU

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                </div>  Calling it a “huge decision for ASU and Sun Devil Athletics,” Ray Anderson used a press conference yesterday afternoon on the Tempe campus to announce the addition of ice […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Calling it a “huge decision for ASU and Sun Devil Athletics,” Ray Anderson used a press conference yesterday afternoon on the Tempe campus to announce the addition of ice hockey as an NCAA Division I sport.

This marks one of several major moves within the Arizona State athletic program since Anderson was hired in January as the new Vice President of University Athletics.  He has also been responsible for the hiring of new head coaches for baseball and wrestling, and just recently put $500,000 of his own money into the fund-raising effort for the renovation work being done on Sun Devil Stadium.

And now he’s rolling the dice with a new sports program and wants to lead the way for other Pac-12 schools to consider getting on the ice hockey bandwagon.  In addressing the risk factor:  “You can’t let other things inhibit you from pursuing an opportunity when you know it’s the right thing to do and it’s a reasonable risk to take on.

Having a pot of gold dropped in his lap no doubt made this decision a little easier.

A group of well-heeled boosters, led by major contributor Don Mullett but including many others who prefer to remain anonymous, put together a package donation of $32 million to provide the seed money for this latest venture.  Anderson called it the “single-largest donation ever to Sun Devil Athletics.”

Mullet, the CEO at Bradley Corporation of Wisconsin, has a son, Chris, who played hockey at ASU, which has been competing as an American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) team and last season won the D-I national title.

“Within a few years of having 18 scholarships available, ASU will eventually compete at the elite level of NCAA D-I hockey, and you will see the Sun Devils in the Frozen Final Four,” said head coach Greg Powers, who was also at the podium for the presser.

Powers became the program’s coach in 2010, has taken his teams to four ACHA Nationals, and last season posted the best record in program history with an overall record of 38-2 – which earned him 2014 National Coach of the Year honors.

His immediate job will be to prepare the program for a three-year period in which it will phase into D-I competition by playing a hybrid schedule this year that includes a combination of D-I and ACHA competition, and then moving into a full D-I schedule in 2016 as an independent.

There are some 60 or so D-I schools that compete in ice hockey, but ASU is the first among the major-conference schools to add a varsity program since Penn State did it in 2012.

This newest addition to the sports line-up at ASU makes it 23 offerings for student-athletes, and Anderson says it was just the right time.

“We are adding sports at a time when many other institutions are considering cutting varsity sports,” he explained to the media.  “We are adding to ours because we believe that it’s the right thing to do.  We also believe that, as the largest public institution in the country, we should be able to field varsity sports that want to compete with the Ohio States and UCLAs and the Stanfords, who have 30-something varsity sports.”

Anderson also unveiled plans to add another women’s sport, probably for the 2016-17 academic year.  The list of possible sports has been narrowed to just a few and Anderson says the “primary focus” is on la crosse, but rowing (crew) is “also under consideration.”

And that led back to the discussion of money:

“We have what amounts to significant start-up funding,” he noted, but said that “additional revenue streams” will be needed going forward.

“So there’s plenty of work ahead for all of us.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics)