Good morning, and thanks for your continued support of Extra Points.

I'm still out in Vegas for the SBJ event, and will be until Thursday afternoon. But I did have enough time to share some thoughts on another stop on my Connecticut tour from last weekend...a trip to see Sacred Heart.

CONNECTICUT---

If you had asked me back in 2019 what I thought about Sacred Heart...I probably would have assumed you were talking about the hospital from Scrubs.

Of course, Sacred Heart isn't just the setting for a paint-by-numbers-comfort-sitcom from the 2000s. It's also a D-I university in Fairfield, Connecticut.

SHU faces many of the same challenges that other mid and low-major athletic departments do. Founded in 1963, SHU is one of the youngest institutions in D-I, regularly competing against institutions that had a good two hundred-year head start in cultivating fans, alumni and political capital. It sits in a crowded market, with five other institutions in Connecticut alone (not counting Hartford, which is transitioning to D-III)  to say nothing of the numerous nearby colleges in other states, along with professional sports.

Unlike some other smaller institutions, SHU has a big athletic department. The school currently sponsors over 30 varsity programs, along with a robust club sports roster, meaning the school supports a higher number of athletes than some P5 institutions. Even on a relatively modest budget, that system appears to be working so far. The university can leverage a large athletic department to stabilize and grow enrollment and tuition revenue, athletes get high-level competition opportunities, and fans get plenty of chances to watch the Pioneers play.

That's a perfectly sensible playbook that several D-I schools follow. But Sacred Heart wants to do more than just participate in high-level sports. They want to be nationally competitive.

Typically, when mid-majors make that decision, they push their resources into basketball or occasionally FCS football.

Sacred Heart is making a big bet on hockey.