JR Ancheta/UAF Photography University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team forward Steven Jandric in action against the UAA Seawolves.

JR Ancheta/UAF Photography University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team forward Steven Jandric in action against the UAA Seawolves.

Alaska Voices: Restructuring UAA Athletics for stronger, more sustainable future

Although this is painful, it is still the right thing to do.

  • Tuesday, August 25, 2020 2:35pm
  • Opinion

UAA’s decision to end four athletics programs is heartbreaking. First and foremost, we recognize the effect this has on our community, UAA staff and faculty, and most of all, UAA’s student-athletes. Although this is painful, it is still the right thing to do.

We are longtime supporters and donors of UAA Athletics, and we support Chancellor Sandeen’s recommendation to the Board of Regents. Our families have supported athletics at UAA for generations, and we understand that a new fiscal reality means difficult decisions need to be made for the future of the university. When faced with tough choices, we must choose long-term sustainability.

Though rooted in tradition, a university is, by nature, an evolving entity. Things can’t always stay the same. Its students change, information and the way education is delivered changes, and outside forces change as well. Inherent in the mission of public universities is responsiveness to community needs.

Since 2014, UAA’s state funding has declined by over $34 million, and the university has had to adapt. This has forced UAA leadership to make difficult decisions about which academic programs can be sustained long term. The recent decisions about athletics come on the heels of the Board of Regents’ direction last fall to consolidate academic programs and administrative areas to meet budget reductions.

Throughout this change, UAA has committed to becoming more efficient and strengthening its focus to ensure long-term sustainability, while also meeting the state’s needs for education and workforce development. The latest recommendations reflect UAA Athletics’ participation in this process and represent a savings of about $2.5 million per year. UAA academics has already taken 38% of the total budget reduction for UAA, and now with these cuts UAA athletics will have taken a total of 11% of the total over the same time period. Yes, it is heartbreaking, and yes it must be done.

Affected programs include men’s hockey, women’s gymnastics, men’s skiing and women’s skiing. Approximately 55 student athletes are impacted, as well as seven coaches and two staff members. It will also be felt by the entire student body, and the community that supports these programs and people. The university also prioritized making this decision now, more than a year in advance of these changes going into effect, to allow those impacted, and their families, time to prepare for the future.

UAA Athletics has said it will assist student-athletes with scholarship information, academic advising, counseling options, and navigating the transfer process. UAA will also provide tuition scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year for scholarship student athletes directly impacted by these program eliminations who choose to remain at UAA to pursue their degrees.

We want to recognize and thank these student-athletes for their accomplishments and contributions to the university. These decisions do not discount our pride in the hard work they’ve put into their sports, their education and our community year after year.

The bottom line is that this restructuring reflects the reality of our resources, and COVID-19 has only exacerbated these gaps. Stanford University, Boise State University, University of Iowa, University of Connecticut, GNAC counterpart Seattle Pacific University and more have all made the difficult choice to eliminate or suspend athletics programs in 2020. After these changes, UAA will strive to be a competitive GNAC conference member.

Some students may decide to study elsewhere and UAA leadership does not take that notion lightly, but these cost savings will allow UAA to continue to provide the resources needed to offer top-level education and build a hometown workforce.

We have no doubt UAA Athletics’ remaining programs will continue to thrive with the support and backing of our community. We value a strong athletics program at UAA as much as anyone in this community, and we continue to be committed to supporting UAA through the challenges of today, and through its vision for the future. Though we may be smaller, we’ll be no less mighty.

Tom and Vicki Packer, Rick Nerland, Bobbi and Jim Olson are UAA Athletics donors and supporters.

More in Opinion

Tease
Opinion: Rural broadband is essential infrastructure

Broadband funding is available. The rest is up to Alaskans.

Nurse Sherra Pritchard gives Madyson Knudsen a bandage at the Kenai Public Health Center after the 10-year-old received her first COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: A mom’s and pediatrician’s perspective on COVID-19 vaccines for children

I want to see children and their parents who have yet to get vaccinated roll up their sleeves.

Larry Persily (Peninsula Clarion file)
Opinion: State defends its right to cut nonexistent taxes

This from a state that has no property tax on homes or businesses, only on the oil industry.

Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: The foolish men claiming self-defense

It’s not just misguided teenagers carrying guns who find themselves in trouble with the law.

Dr. Jay Butler, former chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, is seen in this undated photo. (Courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Feeling grateful this Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccines

The COVID vaccines remain our strongest tool in combating the pandemic and helping us return to our lives and the things we love and cherish.

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: All votes matter

In the beginning, only property-holding white men could vote.

Cristen San Roman. (Photo provided)
Point of View: Is management of Cook Inlet catered to special interest groups?

If these fish are so at risk, why is BOEM able to move forward with lease sale 258?

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Grateful for the hidden ‘good’

Gratitude: Noun The state of being grateful; thankfulness. The state or quality… Continue reading

Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski. (Photo provided)
Point of View: What is Homer High School about?

What I consider Homer High’s strength is that we are a place for learning.

UAA Chancellor Sean Parnell. (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: Invent your future at UAA

At UAA we’re providing the tools to help students of all ages and skills chart a new course forward.

A registered nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up clinic on the Spit on May 27. (Photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Vaccination is the still best protection from COVID-19

The Alaska State Medical Association encourages you to protect yourselves and your community from preventable illness by getting recommended vaccines.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
The sad diminishment of Rep. Don Young

Young seems afraid to demand his party leader defend the dignity of the institution he loves.