The Oakland Post

Hockey feasibility study shows Oakland pass with flying colors

Skylar Tolfree, Sports Editor

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It was announced Oct. 16, 2017 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit that Oakland University would take part in a National Hockey League feasibility study to determine if Oakland was eligible to bring intercollegiate NCAA Division I hockey to campus. Oakland was one of only five universities in the nation to be selected for this study.

A draft of the results are in, and the NHL has said, “With the passion for hockey at all levels in the State of Michigan, the foundation appears to be in place for Oakland University to develop hockey programs that will be financially successful and competitive on a conference and national level.”

Glenn McIntosh is now heading this project due to the departure of former university Athletics Director Jeff Konya.

“As a result of the feasibility study, we are developing a criteria that will help determine the conditions that must be met for a women’s and men’s hockey to be a good fit for our university.” McIntosh said. “We have not determined whether to bring hockey to Oakland. Since we have many logistical matters to consider… bringing hockey to the university is not a near future goal.” 

The study results were finished on Nov. 25, 2017 but have yet to be released to the public. The Oakland Post has been conversing with Athletics since November, and reporters were told through January that a draft did not exist.

The Post retained a copy of the study through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The study itself contains a breakdown of all the information needed to bring Division I men’s and women’s hockey to the university, including costs for coaches and staffs, arena ideas and sales revenue.

While McIntosh says there are many logistical matters to consider, the study itself contains information that breaks down a lot of the tough questions and concerns that the university and university community could have pertaining to bringing NCAA DI hockey to campus.

The information below contains the NHL’s recommended positions and pricing for Division I Men’s Intercollegiate Hockey pulled directly from the study:

  • Head Coach – $250,000 Assistant Coach (2 positions) – $175,000
  • Equipment Manager – $40,000 (Programs will likely need a dedicated equipment staff person.)
  • Athletic Trainer – $45,000 (Could be shared with other teams, especially in the off-season.)
  • Director of Hockey Operations – $40,000 (Has become a vital position.)
  • Administrative Assistant –  $35,000 (This might be shared with another, already staffed admin assistant.)
  • Sports Information Director – $35,000 (Could be shared with other teams, especially in the off-season.)
  • Strength and Conditioning Coach – $40,000 (Could be shared with other teams, especially in the off-season.)
  • Academic Coordinator/Counselor – $40,000 (Could be shared with other teams, especially in the off-season.)
  • Student Workers – $10,000 (Many programs have paid student workers who help take stats, work with Sports Information, assist coaches with random tasks, etc.)

That brings the total estimated salary cost for men’s hockey to $710,000. These, however, are not the only costs that go into bringing a team to Oakland’s campus. There are also the Fringe Costs:

  • Staff Fringe Benefits – $280,000. For this model we are using 40 percent of the total annual salary pool (Excluding the student workers budget).
  • Camp Payment – Varies depending on success of the camp. (Camp payments are almost always related to the financial success of the camp. Thus this would not be seen as a cost to the department.)

This would bring the program’s total staff and fringe cost to $990,000 annually.

An area that Athletics would need to fund is scholarships for the student athletes. These scholarships, like any other scholarship, athletic or academic, are used to bring the students to the university to play the game. Athletics would be in charge of budgeting out these scholarships from its own pool of scholarship funding.

As of now, it is recommended by the NHL that there will be just under 20 scholarships offered that would result in roughly $720,000.

There has been no public announcement on how the university would obtain this money to start the program. Two options would be to either receive a generous donation(s), or raise the student tuition by a very small amount, according to Konya before the study took place.

Lastly, the absence of an ice arena is one of the factors that McIntosh is still looking into that, right now, is stopping he and his team from tackling the program. There has been no talk of locations where an ice arena could go if the university was to decide to move forward. In the study, there is a detailed thought process of the size of the arena as well as what else the arena could be used for by the public.

But before a hockey program can be pursued, Oakland has funding issues in addition to replacing Konya.

As mentioned earlier, Konya abruptly stepped down from his position of director of Athletics in January. In his absence, Padraic McMeel has been named interim athletics director.

It was announced Late Monday evening on April 9, that the search committee has been formed and the search has begun.  Though it has been a long time coming and the position has been vacant for almost four months now, the search is finally set to begin.
“I am pleased to announce that a national search for the University Athletic Director has been launched,” University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz said in the announcement.
Committee members include:
  • Boyd C Farnam, Assistant General Counsel
  • Alyssa Gaudio, Women’s Head Golf Coach
  • Gregory Thomas Jordan, Director of Campus Recreation
  • Thomas LeMarbe, Assistant Vice President for Finance and Administration
  • Judy Didion, Ph.D., RN, Dean of the School of Nursing
  • Todd Nucci, Director of Marketing, Web and Digital Services
  • Angie Schmucker, Associate Vice President for University Advancement
  • Christine Stiller, Special Instructor of Physical Therapy and Faculty Athletics Representative
  • Melissa Stolicker, Oakland University Trustee
“We hope to complete the search process by late spring or early summer,” McIntosh said. “Our goal is to generate a hire quality diverse candidate pool and select the best fit for Oakland.”
With a recommendation from the NHL to start metro Detroit’s only NCAA DI intercollegiate hockey program still relatively fresh, getting an athletic director quickly will be imperative for the university. Though it is unclear why Oakland has waited so long to start the search and why Oakland has kept the feasibility study results from the university community for so long, new opportunity just might be on the horizon.

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