On Wednesday, June 28 Tennessee State University announced that they will be adding a hockey program. This will make Tennessee State the first HBCU school to have a team hit the ice. Tennessee State announced that the team will begin play during the 2024-2025 season. The team will start as a club program, but the University has plans to expand to NCAA division-1 in the near future. They plan to have a men's team and a women's team compete. This announcement comes on the day of the NHL draft being held in Nashville.
In a press release that was sent out Tennessee State President Glenda Glover said, “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.”
This announcement is an important step toward expanding diversity in a sport that has lacked diversity in its long existence. This announcement is also important for expanding college hockey in untapped markets. Tennessee States' announcement is not just grounding breaking for HBCUs but is groundbreaking for college hockey in the southern states.
While the NHL has a foothold in the South with teams like the Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators college hockey has yet to gain traction in the Southern United States. While there are many club programs in the South there are zero Division 1 programs. The University of Alabama Huntsville did have a program, but it was discounted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Division 1 college hockey currently has 62 teams located in the Northeast and Midwestern United States with some exceptions like Arizona State. But with today's announcement that Tennessee State plans to field a Division 1 team in the future, this could mean possible expansion for other Southern schools to follow. Tennessee State is not just a leader for HBCU schools but for all Southern schools looking to maybe add ice hockey to part of their athletic department.
TSU President Glenda Glover
This announcement also confirms that Nashville is the gold standard for hockey in the South. Gary Bettman the current commissioner of the NHL led a movement to have teams in the South. It has been semi-successful for certain markets, but the Nashville experiment worked. Nashville has some of the most passionate fans in the National Hockey League and bringing a college hockey program with plans to go to Division 1 to an already established hockey market will make Nashville the hockey capital of the South.
Tennessee States' historic announcement will forever change the landscape of college hockey. They will be a leader for other HBCU schools to expand their athletic departments to include hockey. They will also be a leader for all schools in the South that are thinking about adding a hockey program. The Tennessee State Tigers have continued to prove that the Music City is one of the best hockey markets in North America.
Alek Kisiel / WNSR Columnist
@Alekkisiel on Twitter
KisielAl@msu.edu - Email