On Monday, the University of Minnesota at Crookston announced that it will be discontinuing its varsity menâ€™s hockey program. Division II UM-Crookston is the first Division II or III institution to do so since the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts folded its program at the end of the 2002-03 season.
The Golden Eagles had participated in the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association (MCHA) since the 1999-00 season, and won league regular season and playoff titles in 2003, as well as the playoff title in 2004.
The decision was not an easy one to make according to the UMC administration, but economic challenges and scheduling difficulties forced the universities hand on the issue.
The most challenging obstacle to the programâ€™s continuation is that beginning next season, the Golden Eagles would have had to play as an independent. Two years ago the MCHA mandated its member institutions must be Division III beginning in the 2009-10 season.
â€œWe exhausted every possible option before taking this step,â€ said UMC athletic director Stephanie Helgeson in an official release. â€œWe certainly donâ€™t take this lightly, but the reality of the economics of the state of Minnesota, the need to manage our university resources effectively, and the increasing challenges of fielding an NCAA independent hockey schedule with no postseason have led us to this difficult decision.â€
Two years ago, UMC examined the possibility of moving all of its sports programs to Division III but elected not to, citing the negative impacts such a move would have had on sports other than hockey, all of which it currently plays at the Division II level.
The university did announce that head hockey coach Gary Warren will be retained by the university, and will assume athletic department responsibilities centering on game and facilities management and assistant athletic director duties.
Warren had been head coach of the Golden Eagles since 2001.
â€œIâ€™m certainly saddened to see us fall short of our goals and expectations for a quality hockey program at the University of Minnesota, Crookston. Knowing all the challenges and obstacles involved, I understand the reality of separating the heart from the head,â€ said Warren in the official release.
The program explored other options, such as developing a partnership with the Northeast-10, a Division II conference made up of institutions in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. UMC also contacted the two other Western Division III leagues, the MIAC and NCHA, but was unable to come to suitable agreements with either that may have saved the program.
The Golden Eagles finished their final season 6-21-0 and posted an 83-104-14 record in their 10 years in the MCHA.