University of Minnesota, Crookston to Discontinue Hockey Program
Contact: Mitch Bakken- Sports Information Director (218) 281-8414
CROOKSTON, Minn. (March 23, 2009) – The University of Minnesota, Crookston will discontinue its men’s hockey program effective immediately. Facing the current economic climate, looming state budget cuts to higher education, and difficulties in scheduling, officials explored many options before making this decision.|
“We exhausted every possible option before taking this step,” said Stephanie Helgeson, director of athletics. “We certainly don’t take this lightly, but the reality of the economics of the state of Minnesota, the need to manage our University resources effectively, and the increasing challenges of fielding an NCAA independent hockey schedule with no post-season have led us to this difficult decision.”
Despite the closing of the hockey program, U of M, Crookston Chancellor Charles Casey reaffirmed that the University will still honor its five-year financial commitment with the City of Crookston for use of the new ice arena complex. Campus administrators will work with city officials to find ways the campus and its students may make use of the new facility when it opens. “We made a commitment to the community, and we will stand by that,” Casey added.
Helgeson said the Athletics Department will retain head hockey coach Gary Warren. He will be reassigned to work with game management, athletic facilities, and assistant AD duties. Warren will also provide assistance to student-athletes involved in the hockey program should they choose to explore other options.
In the time since the Crookston campus reaffirmed its commitment to NCAA Division II athletics in 2007, Warren and Helgeson investigated many alternatives to maintain a viable hockey program. A major challenge arose later in 2007, when the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association (MCHA) decided to move exclusively to NCAA Division III in its membership following the 2008-09 season.
As the U of M, Crookston Golden Eagles transitioned out of the MCHA over the next two seasons, officials explored developing a scheduling relationship with the Northeast 10, a Division II conference comprised of colleges in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Two west region NCAA Division III hockey conferences were also contacted, as was the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), a Division III conference made up of Minnesota private colleges. Officials gave additional consideration to joining the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division I.
National PairWise Ranking issues, divisional affiliation issues, lack of post-season play, increased travel costs and missed classroom time for student-athletes, and budget constraints all combined to create a series of challenges that ultimately led to the decision.
Warren, who has served as the Golden Eagles’ head hockey coach since 2001, said, “I’m certainly saddened to see us fall short of our goals and expectations for a quality hockey program at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. Knowing all the challenges and obstacles involved, I understand the reality of separating the heart from the head.”