Club hockey gains ground on Big Ten
As Rutgers begins its transition into the Big Ten conference next year, much attention has been given to the prospects for the sports competing against new opponents.
Football and basketball have dominated the conversation regarding the viability of the Scarlet Knights’ athletic program, in the prospective 14-school conference. These two sports have received the majority of focus and funding since the move was announced back in November of 2012.
But for other Olympic-sport programs at Rutgers, the transition to the Big Ten provides other opportunities.
The Rutgers men’s ice hockey team serves as a prime example of a program that has a bright future due to the conference realignment.
Unfortunately for the hockey team, which is at the club level right now, it will not have a chance to become a varsity sport within the next few years in the Big Ten.
But that has not stopped head coach Andy Gojdycz from thinking about the possibilities.
“I think [hockey] would catch on here and it would be a sport the student body and faculty would support and follow,” Gojdycz said.
Without varsity recognition, the hockey team has gotten by with little funding from the athletic department.
This has negatively impacted the team in a number of ways, but Gojdycz sees these negatives as potential advancements for the future.
“I think recruiting would definitely benefit from the move [to the Big Ten],” Gojdycz said. “New Jersey kids have a lot to offer to the sport of ice hockey.”
Gojdycz, a former member of the ice hockey team and Rutgers graduate, also believes former ‘Ice Knights’ would favor the move to the Big Ten.
“I think the alumni support would increase and really benefit the team,” Gojdycz said.
While the move has a number of appealing benefits, Gojdycz understands how long the process is and the restrictions involved in becoming a varsity sport at Rutgers.
“In order to become an NCAA program, there’s certain requirements,” Gojdycz said. “Whether it be a rink on campus or superior funding for scholarships and the like.”
The funding for the program is not there yet, and Gojdycz admitted it is not ready to become a varsity spot.
Although the immediate future for the Knights does not include a movement to the varsity level, the team has not ruled it out entirely.
“The only way it could happen soon is with alumni boosters and donations,” Gojdycz said.
For the next few years, the ice hockey team will remain at the club level, and Gojdycz has expressed little disappointment with the prospect.
“I think, for the University, it’s a great way to see where we stand for all the major sports,” he said.
The first few years in the Big Ten will provide the ice hockey team, along with many other sports programs, an opportunity to see how they stack against new competition.
The possibilities for all the low-level sports programs are endless in this new beginning for Rutgers athletics.
“I could see maybe seven or eight years down the road, Rutgers making a niche for itself in the Big Ten,” Gojdycz said.
In the mean time, the ice hockey team will continue to compete in the Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League (ESCHL), where the team currently is in 4th place.
“We’re going to remain patient, it’s going to take some time,” Gojdycz said.