Men’s Hockey to consider making move to Division I
After earning well over 500 wins during his career as the head coach for the University of Rhode Island men’s hockey team since 1989, head coach Joe Augustine is ready to bring his program to the NCAA Division I level.
“Our guys have worked extremely hard in the ACHA over the years and have had some really great club competition here, but it’s not the NCAA’s,” Augustine said. “We’re ready for the big leagues.”
With continued success over the 28 years of Augustine’s career as the head coach at URI since he arrived from Brown University, the team finished their 2016-17 season with yet another 20+ win season (21-12-7). A Boston College hockey star himself (1975-1978) Augustine wants to give his program the opportunity to face off against the best programs in the country, with many of them already being in New England. The idea gained considerable traction after students started staging protests, urging the University to make URI hockey mainstream.
“I need to be at a D1 hockey school otherwise I cannot with good conscience stay enrolled here any longer,” said one student picketing outside Brad Boss Arena, while wearing a T-shirt that read “make hockey legit or we intend to split,” which students can now purchase in the restricted section of the URI Bookstore.
The revolt was met with little response, but soon escalated as NHL players and coaches started joining the fight to make the Rams a D1 program.
“I’ve been following this team for years, and there is no doubt in my mind that they could compete in a Frozen Four today,” controversial coach and former Stanley Cup Champion John Tortorella said when asked about the speculation surrounding the team’s bid for D1 status. “I plan on getting over there to show my support for Joey and his boys as soon as my team is eliminated from the playoffs.”
The team was motivated by the endorsement and is now planning on attending the Frozen Four of the NCAA hockey tournament, which is to be held on April 6 at the United Center in Chicago. They have issued an open challenge to the four championship hopefuls in an attempt to showcase their skills on a national level, which could then be enough to warrant a full commitment to making Rhode Island a D1 hockey school.
“I heard what John said about my boys, and I think he might be onto something,” Augustine said. “Why not make the trip to Chi-town? We’ll step out onto the ice and take on any program looking to face us. They say it’s the Windy City. Well, we’re going to blow them all away.”
Augustine’s teams have had a track record of consistent success, and adding another quality hockey program to the already stacked group of successful New England NCAA Division I schools would be great for the university, and for all New Englanders. With the Rams having a dominant level of success, no club team at the university is more deserving of the potential move.
“The main reason they took so long to make the potential move is because we enjoyed having quality winning seasons each year in the ACHA’s,” Augustine said. “If we have a losing season in the NCAA’s our first season there we might just go right back to the Division I club level for good, but why not try and beat the best. I’m not getting any younger as a coach.”
Students have always seemed to wonder why the most consistently successful program at URI has never had the shot to play the sport at the highest college level. Well here you go. Augustine and his program are finally ready to make the move.
Tune into ESPN2 next Thursday to see URI crash the Frozen Four, as they look to prove they can skate among the best in the country, whether that be as a dominant club team or the next D1 powerhouse.