The CCHA has called a press conference for Tuesday afternoon to discuss league expansion, where it is expected that they will announce Augustana University as the ninth member of their conference.
Update: Here is the CCHA’s official release announcing the move.
Augustana, a private university in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, had previously announced their intentions to start a Division I men’s program for the 2023-2024 season. Last month, the school named Garrett Raboin as the program’s inaugural head coach.
The Vikings will become the westernmost team in the CCHA, roughly two and a half hours by bus to Mankato, and five and a half hours by bus to Bemidji, as their two closest league trips. Their addition makes sense for the CCHA, however. Their athletics program is currently in the Division II Northern Sun Conference, alongside fellow CCHA members Minnesota State and Bemidji State(as well as St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth), making them a good institutional fit. They already have funding for a new ice arena. And they’ve already made a splash by hiring a talented, up-and-coming young coach. The foundation is certainly in place for them to be a successful program in a relatively short time frame.
Augustana will bring the CCHA to nine members, which is an awkward, but not unworkable number. It also may be one of the first dominoes to fall in an oncoming realignment for men’s college hockey. There are still a number of independent programs looking for conference homes, if the league wants to move to 10 teams. Lindenwood might be the most logical choice. It may also provide some insurance if the league were to lose members if things begin to shuffle.
Regardless, Augustana will be taking the ice under the banner of the CCHA when they begin play in 2023, and they should be in an excellent position to be successful within a relatively short period.