UNLV May Gamble on Division I Hockey

The University of Nevada-LasVegas wants to make the move to Division I hockey. But, as Arizona State has shown, the move is much easier said and planned than done.

After a 3-2 win over Arizona State on October 9th, the Runnin’ Rebels vision of moving up from the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II ranks to hockey’s big leagues is becoming clearer. Defeating Arizona State was seen by UNLV hockey club faithful as a key milestone in creating legitimacy for their ambitious hockey plans.

The team’s general manager, Zee Kahn estimated it would take a donation of between $10-$15 million to fund the program for the first five years. Khan said it would need to be a private donation and that prospective donors were in attendance Sunday. However, he declined to provide their names. Those figures are likely much more modest than the actual costs they will need to make the move.

The possible addition of hockey also faces Title IX issues and the thorny arena issue.

If the money is donated, the team would need the university to sign off. Khan said the team is working with the school to add a women’s lacrosse team, which would offset the scholarships that would be added by a men’s hockey team and keep the school in compliance with Title IX.

Don’t forget about the arena issue, though. Arizona State’s efforts to join a conference hit a snag due in large part to their lack of a suitable arena. UNLV has some of the same arena issues as ASU. Its current home arena does not meet the standard needed for an NCAA team. The Thomas & Mack Center would be too big, and Khan mentioned Orleans Arena and South Point Arena as possibilities – though South Point would need renovations to make it work. In these cases additional funding would be needed and the arena would be off-campus making attendance, potentially, problematic.

Hope springs eternal, though. “From an internal, UNLV athletic department side, we are going according to plan,” Khan said. “The conversations that we’ve had (with donors) are all indicative of the fact that we are going to get there at some point here soon.”

Realistically, this is a long-term vision for UNLV and may hinge on the success of Arizona State’s move to DI. Though “Step 1” has become exceedingly obvious since ASU’s conference troubles: get an arena. Everything else will likely fall into place after that.