Upon the commitments from Maryland Black Bears Thomas Jarman (Boston University), Hunter McCoy (Brown Univeristy), and Josh Nixon (Lake Superior State); a common question popped into my head: Will there come a time where their is a NCAA Division 1 hockey school in Maryland?? Short answer: yes, but it might take a couple of years.
Long answer: the rest of this post.
The most obviously choice to take the Men’s Division 1 jump would be the United States Naval Academy. With Army and Air Force having hockey programs, have Navy as a third service academy with a hockey program just makes sense. They have had club hockey for decades in ACHA D1, but have yet to make the jump to the NCAA ranks. This topic was raised when Navy Athletics doing an Ask the AD segment on their YouTube channel.
In his answer, Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk said that they have gone over every scenario when it comes to having Navy get into the NCAA D1 ranked and the cost associated with it. With 33 varsity teams already, however, it makes consistent funding much more imperative to carry another varsity team without having to cut another club for it. Also mentioned was bringing up the women’s team, currently in D2 club, to the NCAA D1 ranks as well. Gladchuk, a former AD at Boston College and the man who hired legendary BC coach Jerry York, mentioned that Navy wouldn’t do anything at half-force and would do all they can to get the best people for the program if they were to get there. Gladchuk said that it’ll take $1.2M and facility upgrades to McMullen Arena to make it work and have that money be consistent.
A big caveat in this case, as is with Air Force and Army, is the need to fulfill service time after graduation. New guidelines for a waiver were introduced in late 2019, but it seems like those efforts are gears more towards other sports and not hockey so much. While it could give a little more ease in recruiting for coaches, the day-to-day grind these student-athletes would need to endure in preparation of service time could be a turn-off to many recruits from the start.
The other potential candidate that is somewhat in a reality realm is that of Stevenson University. Now, Stevenson is already in the NCAA ranks with their D3 program, but it’s still in its infancy. The women’s team was started at the 2012-13 season with the men’s team following in the 2016-17 season. Pre-COVID, Stevenson had a plans for a new facility for the men, women, and club team to play in, which was a 6,900 square-foot venue with plenty of locker rooms and space within the Reisterstown Sportsplex. Currently, at the Sportsplex, they have two set of metal bench stands that are only three or four rows deep. If the renovated complex can address the stands issues, which a rendering from the Stevenson hockey recruitment brochure shows, seems to make it look like real stands will be installed.
Of course, with COVID happening and funding around college sports being affected, who knows if that plan is still in motion. Honestly, that could be the only hang-up for the Mustangs for getting into D1, outside of their willingness of making the jump up to those ranks.
Among other things, the distance these teams would have to travel would be a bit of a concern for any Maryland team playing in college hockey on top of a conference in which to get into. Princeton, Penn State, and Robert Morris University would the closest in proximity for the Maryland schools, but everything else is pretty far north and west for teams. Of course, conferences, teams, and plenty else could all change by the time any team from Maryland gets into the D1 side of things– but as it stands now, you’d think that Atlantic Hockey is the go-to, as the odd of the University of Maryland having a varsity hockey program that would go into the Big Ten seems a bit of a pipe-dream at the moment.
In the grand scheme of things, you’d think that top-tier college hockey in Maryland shouldn’t be too far away. Having the Black Bears in the area would allow a quicker scouting trips for coaches to see the NAHL East Division up close and personal, while also giving the Mid-Atlantic region some much deserved recognition on the college hockey stage. In order to get that, it’ll take will take money, willingness, and patience for it to all come together.