On Monday, supporters of Division I hockey at MSUM received the news they had been dreading.
Through a mass email, the university announced the end of its $37 million fundraising effort to create self-sustaining men’s and women’s teams without tuition or taxpayer dollars. By the “drop-dead” deadline at the end of February, MSUM was able to secure only a little more than half of its goal, administrators said.
“The other half wasn’t about to materialize in the next few days,” President Edna Szymanski said Tuesday.
The university, which first explored pursuing a hockey program in 2009, may try again at some point, she said, but only if it can line up a huge upfront contribution.
That’s unlikely to happen, said local hockey bigwig Bernie Burggraf, a leader in the nearly 8-month drive to coax donors. MSUM “blew the chance” for the sport, he said.
“(Szymanski) will not have any credibility if she decides to go again and the people they had lined up will not come back to the table,” Burggraf said. “She made fools of all of them.”
He said he asked the president for five more days to fundraise, but she wouldn’t budge.
“It was so close,” Burggraf said. “I would’ve had the money.”
Szymanski said extending the deadline wouldn’t have been fair to those who had already pledged money to the other WCHA institutions. The nine-member conference, MSUM’s preferred hockey destination, wants to expand to 10 teams by the 2013-14 season to avoid scheduling difficulties. The presidents of Minnesota State University-Mankato and Bemidji State – Minnesota’s two WCHA schools – called Szymanski Tuesday to thank her for MSUM’s handling of hockey, she said.
Szymanski said despite his criticism, “We are deeply grateful to Bernie for all the help that he provided.” Athletic director Doug Peters echoed that point Tuesday.
“(Burggraf) has earned a right to have an opinion,” Peters said.
Though D-I hockey won’t be coming to MSUM, Szymanski said some of the potential benefactors have pledged to help the university in other ways. She declined to provide examples.
“In the next several months,” Szymanski said, “I think you’re going to see that many of the relationships that were developed through hockey are going to benefit the university academically and athletically.”
BY BRYCE HAUGEN