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USD looks to join hockey league

College Hockey America is looking to expand. It appears the University of South Dakota is serious about becoming a member. Sources say USD has made a proposal to the hockey league that it will add the sport and play some of its home games in Siou...

College Hockey America is looking to expand.

It appears the University of South Dakota is serious about becoming a member. Sources say USD has made a proposal to the hockey league that it will add the sport and play some of its home games in Sioux Falls, S.D. -- located about an hour from USD's home of Vermillion.

USD athletic director Kelly Higgins acknowledged he had conversations with people associated with the CHA, but said, "they are just friends of mine."

"We're just looking long-term," Higgins said. "We're studying all of our options."

CHA commissioner Bob Peters had no comment when asked about USD's apparent inquiry into membership.

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"We've had no official application from anybody at this time," Peters said.

The CHA, just four years old, has six teams: Bemidji State (Minn.), University of Findlay (Ohio), Niagara University (N.Y.), Wayne State (Mich.), Alabama-Huntsville and Air Force Academy (Colo.).

The six teams is the minimum needed for the CHA to keep its automatic qualifier status with the NCAA Division I hockey tournament. With the exception of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Association, all other Division I hockey leagues have a moratorium on membership, Peters said.

"The CHA has openings," he said. "And our people have talked in terms of getting to eight, 10 or perhaps even 12 teams."

If USD does follow through on forming a team and joining the CHA, it would be a path North Dakota State was considering in the 1990s.

Under then-athletic director Bob Entzion, the Bison were forming plans to build an arena and putting together a program. But a public vote to fund a sales tax extension for the purpose of building an arena adjacent to the Fargodome was soundly defeated.

And when Entzion resigned in 2000, the hockey momentum went with him. NDSU's emphasis has since been on moving to Division I, which it plans on doing beginning in the 2004-05 season.

USD would be the sixth North Central Conference school to have a hockey team, joining North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State and Minnesota State, Mankato and Minnesota-Duluth.

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UMD is joining the NCC in 2004. Also, it would further form a dividing line between those that are moving to Division I and leaving the league (NDSU, Northern Colorado and South Dakota State) and those that are staying in Division II and having a Division I hockey team. Only Augustana is in the middle.

The CHA has grown in status in four years. The league held its post-season tournament at a neutral site this year for the first time.

Kearney, Neb., home of a United States Hockey League junior team, hosted the event. Kearney said it is interested in hosting the tournament again, Peters said.

Peters said he has not had any communication from Nebraska-Kearney about adding hockey.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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