STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) – Penn State University will open play in Division I ice hockey in 2012 as they transition their program up from club status.

As they continue the furious pace necessary to make that move possible, it looks like they will be part of a Big Ten ice hockey conference.

The Big Ten athletic directors are set to recommend to to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June that the Big Ten establish ice hockey as a conference sport for the 2013-14 season.  Penn State’s emergence is the key cog here, as Big Ten rules require six teams in any conference sport, and the Nittany Lions would be number six, joining Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Wisconsin.

battista joe psu side Penn State Excited About Prospect of Big 10 Ice Hockey

(Penn State's Joe Battista)

This development puts a smile on the face of Joe Battista (right), Penn State’s Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena and Hockey Development.

“The Big Ten hockey conference has come together exceptionally fast, and that’s a testament to the athletic directors and the folks here that really want to see this really become one of the premier conference’s in the country,” he tells KYW Newsradio.

Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Joe Battista of Penn State in this CBS Philly SportsPod…

Battista says they are making progress on several fronts as they ready for their debut as a Division I program.

“We’re in the process of searches for both our men’s head coach and our women’s head coach, which we hope to have hired some time in April or early May so they can begin to recruit in preparation for the 2012 first varsity season,” Battista says.  “We are also very far along in the design plans for the Pegula Ice Arena, which will open in the fall of 2013.”

Penn State will play their first Division I season (2012-2013) as an independent before the proposed Big Ten Conference takes hold for the 2013-2014 campaign, and Battista says that life in the Big Ten will be the ultimate challenge:

“The competition level is going to be tough right out of the chute.   And we are going to be a little disadvantaged because we’ll have only a handful of scholarships given out, because you can’t give all 18 scholarships out in year one — you’ve got to spread that out.

“So in our second year as a varsity team, we may have nine or ten scholarships awarded and we are going to be playing the storied programs that will have the full complement.  So there will be some growing pains.

“But we’re anxious to get it moving, we’ll take our lumps early on but hopefully that will allow us to become nationally competitive in just a four or five-year period,” he says.

When officially established, life in the Big Ten Conference would include a conference tournament with an automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship and a twenty-game conference schedule.

Penn State’s move to Division I hockey was made possible by an $88-million gift last September from Terrence M. and Kim Pegula.

Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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