BEMIDJI, Minn. — Bemidji State University announced Tuesday that its men’s ice hockey team will play the 1998-99 season as a Division I independent, ending the school’s run as a Division II powerhouse.
Official notification, expected to be filed with the NCAA shortly, will confirm that the Beaver men’s team will play a mixed independent schedule next season before starting its first full Division I schedule in the fall of 1999.
Bemidji’s new varsity women’s hockey team has limited play planned for next winter and will develop a full schedule for the 1999-2000 campaign. Other Bemidji athletic programs will remain Division II members of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
“By recommendation of the Division I Exploratory Committee, we have decided to go forward with our commitment to moving the Bemidji State University men’s ice hockey program to Division I,” said Dr. Jim Bensen, university president.
The decision, which will make Bemidji the fifth Minnesota school playing Division I hockey, was made following a 60-day fundraising campaign which has totaled approximately 75 percent of its $175,000 goal.
“This is a landmark day in Bemidji State hockey history,” said BSU athletic director for hockey and men’s head ice hockey coach R.H. “Bob” Peters. “This is a natural evolution for our program. Our tradition has endured and prospered since 1947, and this is the dawn of a new era.”
The Beavers have competed for the NCAA Division II national championship every year since the title series was reinstated in 1993, winning four of the six. However, Bemidji’s decision means that five of the remaining 12 D-II programs have announced plans to move up to Division I within the next two years, leaving the future of D-II men’s hockey in doubt.