Atlantic Hockey to Announce RIT Membership

RIT and Atlantic Hockey have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET on the RIT campus in suburban Rochester, N.Y., where it is anticipated that the school will announce that it is moving its men’s hockey program to the Division I level and joining that conference.

Atlantic Hockey athletic directors met via conference call on Friday, but commissioner Bob DeGregorio would not specify the agenda for that call. The scheduling of the press conference suggests that an affirmative vote for RIT’s admittance was made at that meeting.

DeGregorio and Canisius athletic director Tim Dillon visited the RIT campus on Dec. 3 and 4, and met with RIT officials, including president Albert Simone, members of his staff and trustees, as well as RIT athletic director Louis Spiotti and hockey coach Wayne Wilson.

“They’re great people,” said DeGregorio about RIT. “They have great facilities and they’re enthusiastic. I think they’re a great fit.

RIT hosted Neumann on Saturday, Dec. 4, a near-sellout game attended by DeGregorio and Dillon.

“The place was packed for the Neumann game. It wasn’t just students. It was great community support,” said DeGregorio.

“To see this kind of environment, this is great for college hockey,” said Dillon during his visit.

The earliest RIT or any other new member of Atlantic Hockey would be admitted is for the 2006-07 season. “We don’t have to do this today or tomorrow. We have our own timeline, and we’re going to stick to it,” said Dillon.

For now, men’s hockey will be the only Division I sport at Division III RIT, so the program will not be able to offer scholarships.

DeGregorio and Dillon also met with management of the Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester about making it a permanent home for the annual Atlantic Hockey championships. The D-I committee has awarded a 2007 regional to the recently renovated 11,215-seat venue that is home to the AHL Rochester Americans. “It’s another nice piece for RIT if things were able to be worked out,” Dillon said. The Blue Cross Arena could also be home to an in-season tournament, he suggested.

Details, such as the process for RIT’s transition to D-I and scheduling for next season, are expected to be revealed at the press conference. RIT currently plays in the Division III ECAC West, which formerly had Canisius and Mercyhurst as members.

The move to D-I will give Rochester, N.Y. its first Division I program. The nearest D-I sport in the metro area of more than 1 million people is lacrosse at Hobart College.

RIT has an enrollment of more than 15,000 students, and has over 500 participants in 24 varsity programs in NCAA Division III.

As part of its review of other applicants interested in joining the league, Atlantic Hockey plans to visit Air Force in January.