The University of Illinois' basketball and football programs seem to be pointing up. Now they're looking to add another big-time sport to their repertoire.

Illinois' AD Josh Whitman says that he plans to green-light the school's hockey program by the end of the year.

There's a lot of planning that goes along with that. Right now, Illinois competes in hockey at a club level and plays in the university rink that can hold about 300 fans. I used to be one of those fans. It was a good time. 300 won't be big enough to support and Division I program, so a new structure will have to be built.

SportsBusinessDaily - Whitman said that he has "received several 'seven-figure' commitments for a downtown Champaign arena project that could cost" $50-60M. Whitman said that a funding model "includes private donations, corporate dollars, retail dollars, concession dollars and developer dollars."

Big Ten hockey is a big-time deal. The conference has sent multiple teams to the Frozen Four over the last decade and is considered the strongest conference in the country. Illinois wouldn't be automatically included in the Big Ten schedule but it really doesn't make sense for them to go anywhere else.

One of the t's that must be crossed before this goes into place is the addition of another women's team to comply with Title IX. They should just start a women's hockey team as well. If you're going to build a whole new complex, might as well have another team use it.

This could be big news for an athletic department that desperately needs a win. The basketball and football team are both under relatively new coaches who have fans dreaming of past glory days. A successful hockey team would only help things down in Champaign.

More From WROK 1440 AM / 96.1 FM