Happy Valley may become Hockey Valley even sooner than expected.
The Pegula Ice Arena is now projected to open in the fall of 2013 rather than in the spring of 2014, said Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena Operations and the Director of the Ice Arena and Hockey Campaign Joe Battista.
With that news, Battista said Penn State is now projected to begin Division I conference play in 2013-14, a full season earlier. It has yet to be decided whether a Big Ten conference will be created, or if Penn State will join one of the existing Western Collegiate Hockey Association or Central Collegiate Hockey Association conferences.
The men’s and women’s D-I hockey programs are set to begin play in 2012-13 and will spend the first season as an independent, playing in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
“We’re pleased with the progress we’re making on the design and the schedule,” Battista said Friday. “A lot of work has gone into this by a lot of people.”
Battista said a meeting held Saturday between himself, Penn State donors Terry and Kim Pegula, Penn State President Graham Spanier, Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and others could produce more even more news.
“The meeting between everyone was to talk about arena bowl configuration, number of seats and number of suites,” Battista said. “Those official numbers could be released as soon as Monday.”
Coaching application to be open this week
For any potential candidates interested in the Penn State Division I men’s and women’s head coaching jobs, Battista said the applications for the jobs will be open this week.
He also said Penn State has decided to hire the coaches internally, electing to not hire a search firm. Battista had said earlier the search firms wanted more money than Penn State was willing to give for its services.
“We are not going to get into a bidding war,” Battista said. “Having been through five recent coaching searches for other sports here, and because of some of the people we have partnered with, we think we have a pretty good grip on what we're looking for in both our men's and women's coaches.”
For some interested candidates, Battista said they may be disappointed in terms of the price tag the school will be willing to pay.
“A lot of these coaches don't understand, while we are going to be very competitive, we're not going to go out and break the market to get someone,” Battista said. “We're just not simply going to pay outrageous sums of money for coaches.”
He stressed getting a good fit, and said the university will look to get someone that understands Penn State.
As such, the school will begin a national search for that right fit. He said the university has already done their “due diligence” on a dozen potential coaches.
“These people are ones that have been recommended to us by people in the business that we trust,” Battista said.
While there is a list, he said the university will keep a very open mind when looking at applicants.
“It isn't always the best coach, it's the best fit,” Battista said. “First and foremost you got to do it clean, and you got to do it with academics at the forefront.”
In the end, Battista — who has previously said the plan is to hire head coaches for both teams by May — said both coaches will be people who understand how Penn State wants things done, and will not come with any extra baggage.
“It puts pressure on us, but that’s good because we're not going to cut corners,” Battista said. “We're going to build a program for the long haul.”