(Apologies for the lateness on this big news. But PSU didn't pick the best day for this, since it coincides with the NAHL Showcase. Also, as a reminder, for more on the Showcase, PSU, etc, you can follow me on Twitter at @ChrisDilks.)
So all the stories we've heard over the past couple of weeks are true. Penn State received an $88 million donation and will use that money to build an arena and start men's and women's hockey programs, beginning with the 2012-2013 season.
There's a whole list of issues to run down with this announcement.
-The 2012-2013 start sounds about right. Last night, there was a report that PSU would try to get things up and running for next fall, which seemed insane. This gives PSU a chance to recruit a couple classes of players and really come in as a legitimate contender. They likely would have been a mess if they tried to start next year. You can't recruit an entire roster in less than 12 months. Michigan is already trying that, to grim results.
-The Big Ten Hockey Conference seems like an inevitably at this point. Andy Baggott got the money quote from Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez last night:
"I don’t know the logistics — how long it takes to get out of a league, all of that — but I sense that we will move in that direction,"
I'll hold out the tiniest bit of skepticism since said money quote: 1. Comes from one of the strongest BTHC supporters 2. Starts with "I don't know the logitistics..." 3. Comes from a guy whose son once microwaved a bird.
-As far as the rumors of Illinois and Indiana jumping now that the Big Ten will have a conference, we'll have to wait and see, but let's not forget it took an $88 million donation for this to happen at Penn State, and things like that don't happen every day.
-I think it's fair to say that being head coach at Penn State would be one of the top ten head coaching gigs in college hockey, and it's vacant. It's going to be very interesting to see who the Nittany Lions hire. I saw one article stating that PSU had an "impressive list of candidates, including a current college head coach" that they were looking at. Today, I heard a rumor that the current college head coach they may be looking at is Denver head coach George Gwozdecky. That would certainly make sense, given that Gwozdecky was reportedly unhappy with his contract situation at Denver, and his name was weirdly floated as a candidate for the vacant Ohio State job. With Penn State potentially joining college hockey's strongest conference and Denver's situation a little less clear, there's perhaps a possibility that Penn State could steal him.
Another name that was brought up on Twitter was former Nebraska-Omaha coach Mike Kemp, who has experience building a program after starting the UNO program from scratch, and making them competitive right away. That would likely be in more of a director of hockey operations role though.
Obviously this is a huge story for college hockey, and I'll have more throughout the next week or so. Also, SB Nation's Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries has a ton of coverage from the Penn State side of things.