If Big Ten presidents and chancellors sign off in June on the recommendation of the league's athletic directors, men's ice hockey will become the 26th conference sport beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

The establishment of men's and women's ice hockey as intercollegiate sports at Penn State beginning in 2012 will give the conference six men's hockey programs, the minimum number of programs needed under conference rules for a sport to be contested as a Big Ten sport.

Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin offer men's hockey at the intercollegiate level.

Iowa and Illinois have club hockey programs, but neither school has plans to compete in the sport at the NCAA level.

The recommendation approved unanimously by Big Ten athletic directors includes the establishment of a 20-game conference schedule with teams playing each other four times, two home and two road, and an inaugural Big Ten men's tournament in 2014 that will determine the league's automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament.

"This will enhance the visibility of our teams and the sport," Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon said in a statement. "Competing for Big Ten championships is an important part of the Michigan tradition, and I'm so proud that our coaches and student-athletes will have the opportunity to do just that in a few short years."

Existing Big Ten programs currently play in two hockey conferences - Minnesota and Wisconsin in the 12-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State in the 11-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association.

Tim Anastos, the commissioner of the CCHA, released a statement Monday indicating that his league has been in discussions with Big Ten officials for several months about the possibility of the change.

In a statement, Big Ten officials said its programs will continue to "proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of nonconference competition" with WCHA and CCHA teams.

The addition of Penn State will not give the league enough programs to offer women's ice hockey as a conference sport. Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin include women's hockey among their intercollegiate offerings.

If approved, men's ice hockey would be the 13th conference-sponsored sport for men and would be the first conference sport established by the Big Ten since women's rowing was added in the 1999-2000 school year.

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