Augustana University in South Dakota aiming to add Division I men’s hockey, elevate athletics program from Division II to Division I

According to a statement released on the school’s website, Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., hopes to add Division I men’s hockey as part of a move for the university’s athletics department from Division II to Division I

According to a statement released on the school’s athletics website, Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., plans to add men’s Division I ice hockey as part of “Vikings Bold: The Journey to 2030,” a strategic plan that is “an effort to provide student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a higher level, elevate the university’s profile and inspire Sioux Falls to enthusiastically embrace Augustana as its hometown team by serving the community and integrating our mission with its needs.”

To facilitate the addition of Division I men’s ice hockey, Augustana will need to elevate all of its athletics program to Division I. Currently, Augustana is a Division II university that is a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, the same conference that is home to Bemidji State, Minnesota Duluth, Minnesota State and St. Cloud State

The news of men’s Division I hockey being included in this expansion was first reported by ESPN’s John Buccigross on Tuesday evening.

According to the university’s statement, T. Denny Sanford, owner and founder of First Premier Bank, is providing the lead gift to facilitate this opportunity. Sanford is no stranger to providing philanthropic assistance to collegiate athletics.

In 2009, Sanford made a $6 million donation to help fund the TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota’s campus. His name also sits atop the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, which hosted the 2018 NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey regional and was scheduled to host again during the 2020 tournament. That tournament was canceled due to COVID-19.

The university said that plans for the athletics program are still being developed and more will be released later in the summer or in the fall.