July 21, 2005
Kennesaw State Prepares Move to Division I

By James Jahnke

College hockey appears to be headed to the north Georgia hills, as Kennesaw State University is expected to join the Division I ranks as a member of College Hockey America starting with the 2006-07 season, sources tell Inside College Hockey.

Kennesaw State At A Glance
Location: Kennesaw, Ga.
Enrollment: 17,500
Founded: 1963
Nickname: Owls
Web site: www.KSUOwls.com
Affiliation: Moving from NCAA Division II to Division I in 2005-06

“The ball is rolling 100 miles per hour,” Brian Laurens, a senator in KSU’s student government, said about the varsity hockey plans. “I don’t see how anything can stop the ball right now.”

Perhaps most interesting is that the Owls are slated to play many of their games at Atlanta’s Philips Arena, home of the NHL’s Thrashers, until an ice rink is built on campus. KSU would play either before or after Thrashers games, thereby saving thousands of dollars on building rentals while also gaining exposure among fans of the pro team. Atlanta is roughly 30 minutes from campus.

“We’re excited about it,” Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said. “It’s a win-win. There are a lot of alumni in the Atlanta area that this will introduce hockey to. There’s no conflict or competition with us or with our fans, so we’ll do everything we can to help them.”

Waddell, who was a college star at Northern Michigan, said it will be tough for KSU to have many Friday-Saturday series at Philips because the Thrashers must share the weekend nights with the co-tenant Atlanta Hawks. Also, college schedules usually are finalized before NHL schedules, which could pose a problem. But Waddell said he expects Kennesaw to be flexible and play at smaller, local rinks when Philips doesn’t work out.

Reports of Kennesaw’s interest in varsity hockey surfaced months ago, but the process seems to have picked up steam lately. Laurens said KSU athletic director Dave Waples and a stable of university vice presidents made a presentation to the student council July 14. Citing the advantages of national attention the program would bring, the council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the endeavor.

Laurens said Waples (who was on vacation and unreachable by INCH) told the council at the time that the school had a week and a half to submit its
plans to the CHA. League officials declined to comment.

What’s still unclear is whether there are any other hurdles for the school to pass. KSU reportedly has all of its hockey funding in place, but some sources have indicated that the initiative needs approval from the Georgia Board of Regents at its Aug. 2-3 meeting.

However, an official in the Board of Regents’ media relations office said the board doesn’t deal with athletics programs, and he said nothing concerning the KSU hockey program is on the Aug. 2-3 agenda.

Several university vice presidents whom Laurens said were at last week’s student council meeting either did not respond to messages or referred inquiries to the vacationing Waples. But sources have told INCH that an announcement by KSU is planned on or around Aug. 15.

Related Story
CHA: Will Pay for a Sixth

The CHA has been in the market for a new team since Air Force announced this spring that it will jump to Atlantic Hockey starting in 2006-07. The move will drop the CHA’s enrollment to five schools, one short of the NCAA minimum for an automatic berth into the national tournament.

Fighting for its viability, the CHA announced an aggressive recruitment plan in April, enticing schools to join by offering $50,000 during each of the first three years of membership, a waiver of three years of league dues ($45,000 total), a waiver of the league’s initiation fee ($100,000) and an equal share of the windfall from the 2007 Frozen Four, which the CHA is hosting in St. Louis.

Kennesaw State apparently will take the league up on its offer, thus becoming the second college hockey program south of the Mason-Dixon line (along with CHA member Alabama-Huntsville). The Owls currently have a club team that plays state rivals Georgia and Georgia Tech, among other squads.

Meanwhile, rumbles that Minot State in North Dakota is exploring Division I hockey appear to be false. MSU athletic director Rick Hedberg said such a move isn’t even on the school’s radar.

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