In a cryptic release on uconnhuskies.com, UConn Athletics announced on Tuesday that the department had hired Stafford Sports, LLC, a sports consulting firm, to conduct an evaluation of its men's ice hockey program.
"The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the program's current level of support to that of Atlantic Hockey league members and other programs in the region. The assessment will include financial support, staffing, facilities and potential revenue sources."
This announcement could lead to one of several outcomes. UConn could be evaluating whether to start offering scholarships to become more competitive in Atlantic Hockey (the program currently doesn't offer any). It could also be a sign that the school is serious about becoming the 12th member of Hockey East on the men's side (the Huskies' women's team currently competes in Hockey East). Or it could lead to something far more ominous, like UConn dropping a costly varsity sport it remains largely non-competitive in.
UConn has been a Division I program since 1998. The Huskies spent five seasons in the MAAC before joining Atlantic Hockey. The program has finished with a winning record just twice in 12 seasons at the D-I level -- in 1998-99 and 1999-00.
USCHO's calls to UConn have gone unanswered, so your guess is as good as mine as to what comes of this announcement. But this is something to keep an eye on.
If UConn decides to drop D-I hockey, it wouldn't be the first time a similar fate befalls an Atlantic Hockey / MAAC school. Both Iona and Fairfield dropped varsity men's hockey in 2003, which led to the MAAC dropping its affiliation with the conference.
If the Huskies men's program decides to start offering scholarships, this could be a move to become more competitive in Atlantic Hockey. Or it could be the school positioning itself to join Notre Dame as the 11th and 12th men's programs in Hockey East. Other schools rumored to be in the mix as HEA's 12th program include Holy Cross and RPI.