University of Illinois Division of Intercolegiate Athletics is no longer exploring the addition of a hockey program. The Illini made the announcement Monday with a lengthy statement from athletic director Josh Whitman.

“After more than five years of extensive evaluation and intense effort to generate interest and support, we have determined that it is not viable to bring Division I men’s ice hockey to the University of Illinois at this time,” Whitman said in a statement posted to the official website of Illini athletics.

Whitman noted that Illinois athletics was unable to come up with the necessary fundraising, especially after the department was impacted by COVID-19.

“Since we began our exploration of hockey years ago, meaningful landscape changes have pushed us to this unfortunate conclusion. We have stated repeatedly that we would not advance the hockey project without a sound funding and financial plan. To date, we have been unable to generate the financial support necessary to greenlight the project — a concern that grew even more daunting through the pandemic, when we saw cost projections for the new facility increase by 30%.”

He noted that the current climate of college athletics does not encourage adding a new program.

“In addition, as has been well documented, college athletics is now existing in an incredibly fluid, dynamic environment, including Alston awards, NIL, and student-athlete employment rights,” Whitman said. “We are investing heavily in new benefits for student-athletes, which increases the marginal cost associated with any new sport offerings. Such intense disruption has created ambiguity about the future, and we believe it unwise for Illinois Athletics to expand our sport model in such an uncertain environment.”

Unfortunately, potential projects in other sports programs were put off while the hockey program and the downtown facility were explored.

“And lastly, we have long championed the addition of hockey as an opportunity to address needs in our sports of volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics,” Whitman said. “As a result, we have delayed other potential investments in those sports while we continued our pursuit of hockey and the downtown facility it would require. In recent months, as the odds of adding hockey have diminished, various opportunities to advance some of these other sports have developed. We are now choosing to pursue those opportunities, which effectively minimizes some of the intended value of the downtown facility to DIA.”