So because my team (MSU) is on a bye, I'm aimlessly wandering the SBN sites of the rest of the Big Ten. I'll skip over football talk because I think your fanbase and mine alike find it a bit wearying given the way our seasons have gone, though I am curious if you guys agree with what seems to be the general sentiment out there that Beckman might be in over his head. I personally think one season is way too small a sample size to say for sure, but I'm as much of an armchair QB as I could be, so what do I know.
What I really want to ask is whether you guys think it's likely that UI will start a hockey program anytime soon. The Big Ten will start conference play next year with 6 teams- Minnesota, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. I know starting a new program, especially competing with national heavyweights like Minnesota and Michigan, is no small feat and requires a huge capital outlay, but there are some things I think make it more feasible.
1) That Big Ten Network money. I believe that, with basketball, hockey is projected to be a staple of BTN's winter programming, and the athletic departments across the conference that create the product could well be seeing larger checks coming their way because of it.
2) The Big Ten has to have a plan to get more than 6 schools playing hockey. All of the schools already playing were in darn good conferences before, so if the Big Ten convinced them to leave, it must have been with the thought that more schools would be joining in. Iowa, Northwestern and Purdue all have too small of athletic departments, so it's basically up to Illinois, Nebraska and possibly Indiana to get the Big Ten up to a full-sized hockey conference. Delany MUST have talked to a couple ADs to make this happen.
3) The talent is totally there. Whether you're actually Chicago's Big Ten team or not, Chicago is the most concentrated hockey talent hotbed in the country, and the USHL is within reach as well out there in the frozen tundra of the Great Plains.
So what do you think? Are there facilities in place, or that could plausibly be built, that would allow this to happen? Would there be enough interest in the Illinisphere (my on-the-spot name for your fan community) to support it? Have you heard any rumors, or would you be willing to start some? There are Title IX concerns, so another women's sport would have to be added, or another men's sport cut, to allow it.