SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Augustana University plans to launch a Division I men's hockey program, backed by a donation from billionaire credit card mogul T. Denny Sanford, representatives for the university in Sioux Falls, S.D., confirmed Wednesday, June 16.
"The addition of such a program will be the first of its kind in the state, and will be game-changing for Augustana and Sioux Falls as one of just over 60 schools in the country offering Division I men’s hockey," the university said in a statement.
More information about the planned program will be released later this summer or early fall as plans are finalized, the university said.
In its statement, the university expressed gratitude to Sanford, who has a home in Sioux Falls, for the "lead gift" to facilitate the program, although it didn't specify the amount of the donation.
Sanford has been a significant patron of Augustana University. He also is close friends with former Sanford Health President and CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft, a long-time leading booster in pushing Augustana University to Division I sports.
Fueled by their friendship, Sanford's philanthropy transformed the former Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health System into a regional health system powerhouse, which was renamed Sanford Health in the billionaire's honor.
The plans for the Division I men's hockey program, the first in the state, are part of the university's 2030 strategic plan, the university said.
"This strategic plan includes an effort to provide student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a higher level, elevate the university’s profile and inspire Sioux Falls to enthusiastically embrace Augustana as its hometown team by serving the community and integrating our mission with its needs," it said in its statement.
This article will be updated with additional information.