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Augustana University to become first Division I men's hockey program in South Dakota in a 'game-changing' decision

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Augustana University is adding Division I men's hockey, becoming the first in South Dakota to offer the sport at the top collegiate level.

The school announced the move Wednesday. It will be one of more than 60 Division I schools to offer hockey in the country

Augustana spokeswoman Jill Wilson called it a "game-changing" move for the university.

Sioux Falls businessman and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford donated money to kickstart the program. Wilson would not give details about the contribution other than to say it would "facilitate this extraordinary opportunity."

Details about an arena, coach, conference and program start have not been announced. The Sanford Premier Center, home to a United States Hockey League team, seats more than 10,000 for hockey.

Augustana has said it wants to move all of its programs to Division I by 2030.

It's been a tough run for college hockey amid the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Augustana news is a breath of fresh air.

Last month, Robert Morris University cuts its men's and women's hockey programs, less than two months after the Colonials hosted the NCAA Frozen Four in Pittsburgh. It was the second Frozen Four hosted by the Colonials, both at the PPG Paints Arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.