Tennessee State To Launch Hockey Team, First HBCU To Do So

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Tennessee State University is once again making history. The Nashville based HBCU is set to formally announce via a press conference this afternoon that a hockey team will be established at the institution.

“Bringing ice hockey to Tennessee State University is a part of our continued commitment to provide our students with new opportunities and to broaden new interests in areas where they have traditionally had limited or no access,” said Tennessee State President Glenda Glover in a statement released today, “We appreciate our ongoing partnership with the Nashville Predators which has played a pivotal role in our decision to pursue this historic undertaking, of starting an ice hockey program at TSU, and the first for an HBCU. TSU has a tremendous legacy in athletics. Adding ice hockey to our programs will start a new chapter and build upon that legacy.”

Director of Athletics Dr. Mikki Allen said, “Today is a historic day as Tennessee State University, a prestigious HBCU, collaborates with the National Hockey League (NHL) and the Nashville Predators in an unprecedented partnership. TSU had been a great partner of the Predators for some time, and we are excited to help them work toward the goal of becoming the first HBCU to field a NCAA Division I college hockey team. President Glover and Dr. Allen are visionaries in their respective positions and should be lauded for continuing to build Nashville into the ultimate hockey town.”

Tennessee State conducted a feasibility study in partnership with the National Hockey League, Nashville Predators and College Hockey Inc. in 2021. A fundraising campaign was announced by Tennessee State athletics director Mikki Allen and Predators president and CEO Sean Henry to fund the men & women hockey teams. The funding is going towards the construction of an on-campus stadium, scholarships, equipment, travel and other expenses that will be incurred.

“The idea of establishing a collegiate hockey program at TSU is a tremendous opportunity as the nation’s first HBCU to take on this endeavor,” said President Glenda Glover in 2021. “This allows us to expand the sport, increase diversity, and introduce a new fan base.”

The feasibility study, as reported by ESPN NHL reporter Ryan S. Clark, concentrates on the financial impact of adding hockey to an institution’s athletics slate. The study examines if schools are able to add scholarships, the cost of adding a support staff and coaching staff as well as a conference assessment to see if the team can join a league. D1 Hockey programs compete in six conferences: Atlantic Hockey, Big 10, ECAC, Hockey East, NCHC and WCHA and the conferences houses sixty teams that are primarily located in the northeast and upper-midwest of the country. Arizona State is the only D1 Hockey program to be independent as it transitioned from a ACHA club team to a full varsity team in 2016. 

Tennessee State and the NHL’s Nashville Predators already have an established relationship after entering a partnership in January 2020 where they partnered for the “$1 Million In One Month” campaign, an initiative launched to raise aid for students in financial need. The partnership also entails internships and employment opportunities for TSU students with the Predators.

The hockey team is said to begin their inaugural season in 2024. The team will start at a club-level program but looks to achieve Division I status for both the men and women programs in the near future. Tennessee State is also in the process of hiring a Director of Club Hockey Operations to handle the day-to-day for the new team as well as fundraising, seeking corporate partnerships and recruiting student-athletes.

Tennessee State will host a press conference at the Bridgestone Arena from 3:30 PM-4:00 PM CST before the NHL draft to announce the launch of the hockey team.

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