Speculation and reports are swirling all over Twitter recently about the possible announcement of the University of Illinois-Champaign finally being moved to NCAA D1 status for Men's Hockey.
There has been talk for years how the state of Illinois needs to bring in a NCAA D1 program as without one, most IL hockey players that end up playing D1 commit to other Midwest Universities such as Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and the most common one of late is University of Notre Dame.
The Fighting Illini have been playing out of the University of Illinois Ice Arena which seats 2,000 fans and they currently have an ACHA D1 team coached by Nick Fabbrini.
In a past article by the News Gazette, there was a feasibility study done on the chances of a NCAA D1 Program surviving and thriving in IL:
“The strong consensus of everyone involved in college hockey is that NCAA men’s hockey will flourish at the University of Illinois,” said Mike Snee, executive director of College Hockey, Inc., who joined with the NHL and NHLPA to commission the study. “From the number of native Illinois players currently playing college hockey to the continued growth of youth hockey players in the state, there are many reasons to be confident that the Fighting Illini could quickly become a top national program and sustain it every year. We are very appreciative of the university administration’s willingness to consider bringing NCAA hockey to Champaign.”
This past season Illinois went 17-13-5 in ACHA play and lost in the first round in the ACHA Nationals Tourney.
Outside of the Fighting Illini, the state of Illinois hosts other D1-3 ACHA programs. Northern Illinois recently just announced their own D1 ACHA program while teams such as Illinois State and Robert Morris University currently have D1 ACHA programs.
Aurora University is the only school in Illinois that currently has a NCAA program (Division 3).
As someone who knows many alumni of the program that have played for the Illini or even went to school there, this is something that everyone has been waiting to see for a long time and the state of Illinois needs this. The games are great entertainment, full of awesome talent, and they bring in a great home crowd! The stories I've heard are just epic in terms of what you'd want from a college hockey program, let alone one that is only ACHA D1.
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