May 12, 1998
For more information contact, Dr. Connie Foster, 715/425-3705
Final action was taken this week that will add women's hockey as the 18th varsity sport at UW-River Falls. The Falcon team will debut in the 1999 season.
The decision to add the varsity team came after more than two years of study by the University's department of health and human performance and its athletic committee.
On Tuesday (May 12) after more than a month of consideration, the UW-RF Student Senate Association voted to allocate student fees to support the sport. That was followed the next day by Chancellor Gary A. Thibodeau providing his administrative approval.
Department Chair and Athletics Director Connie Foster said the decision to add the sport was an exciting one and she credits the enthusiasm of Thibodeau and College of Education & Graduate Studies Dean Kathleen Daly.
Thibodeau said he was pleased that the Student Senate allocated funding and that he strongly supports the decision to add the sport.
"There's been a groundswell of support for adding the sport from our students, faculty and staff. It's a welcomed addition to our athletic program. There's a lot of interest in the sport and it will be a popular and well-received addition."
Daly added, "Women's ice hockey is a wonderful addition to the sports we already support. It's a very dynamic sport and great for UW-RF. With several other colleges in the area raising the sport from club to varsity status, it would have been terrible if we would have been left out. We have several students in school who have played the sport and I am grateful to all students who have given their support to adding the program."
Women's ice hockey has been a successful club team at UW-RF since 1979. In recent years it has won its division title three consecutive years and consistently placed in the conference finals.
According to Foster, the team has been building for varsity competition in recent years by playing an extensive schedule of more than 20 games against college or university club or varsity teams. Opponents have included Augsburg College, the University of Minnesota, Gustavus Adolphus, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, UW-Stevens Point, St. Cloud State, St. Olaf, St. Catherine, Carleton College and Iowa State.
The new team will field 25 players supported over the next five years by increasing support in student fees. Foster noted that UW-RF has been receiving queries nationwide for years from prospective players who are seeking an opportunity to play at the collegiate varsity level.
UW-RF students will contribute $5 each in support for an annual budget of $25,000 by the year 2002. Another $25,000 in start-up fees must still be raised, but has already been strengthened by Thibodeau's allocation of $10,000 to the program.
Foster noted the funding is all in new money and that financing for the program will not come from reductions in other varsity activities.
By this fall Foster hopes to launch a search for a coach and assistant coach who will serve as ad hoc appointees with sole responsibilities for coaching on a part-time basis.
Foster said she expects the new coach to quickly become involved in recruiting, team start-up issues, and scheduling varsity matches against Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponents. UW-RF is the second WIAC institution to add the varsity sport, following on the heels of UW-Superior.
According to Foster, the sport of women's ice hockey is too new yet to provide conference and national championship playoffs opportunities, but that she expects those to develop over the next few years.
Also to be considered next year, she said, are additional assistance from the UW-RF Student Senate funding to assist in contributions to the team's start-up costs. The Senate, through its statutory bonding authority, also will consider funding to upgrade rink facilities at the UW-RF Hunt Ice Arena and to add locker, storage and office space for the women's program.
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