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Minnesota-Crookston men's hockey program discontinued

CROOKSTON -- In September, the city of Crookston broke ground on a $14.5 million hockey arena set to open in 2010.

On Monday, Minnesota-Crookston announced its men's hockey program won't be around to use it.

Citing the economic climate, looming state budget cuts to higher education and scheduling difficulties, UMC has discontinued the sport effective immediately.

"We exhausted every possible option before taking this step," UMC athletic director Stephanie Helgeson said. "We certainly don't take this lightly, but the reality of the economics of the state of Minnesota, the need to mange our university resources effectively, and the increasing challenges of fielding an NCAA independent hockey schedule with no postseason have led us to this difficult decision."

UMC Chancellor Charles Casey reaffirmed the school will honor its five-year financial commitment with the city of Crookston for use of the new ice arena complex. Campus administrators will work with city officials to find ways the campus and its students may make use of the facility when it opens.

"We made a commitment to the community, and we will stand by that," Casey said.

UMC hockey coach Gary Warren will be reassigned within the department. He will work with game management, athletic facilities and assistant athletic director duties.

The program took a hit in 2007 when the Golden Eagles transitioned out of the Midwest Collegiate Hockey Association when the conference decided to move exclusively to NCAA Division III in its membership following the 2008-09 season.

UMC explored alternative conference options, including the Northeast 10 (Division II), two West Region Division III conferences and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (Division III). Officials also considered joining the American Collegiate Hockey Association (Division I).

Those efforts were unsuccessful.

"I'm certainly saddened to see us fall short of our goals and expectations for a quality hockey program at Minnesota-Crookston," said Warren, who has been head hockey coach since 2001. "Knowing all the challenges and obstacles involved, I understand the reality of separating the heart from the head."