ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The University of Alaska Anchorage will drop its men’s hockey program and three other sports next year because of significant reductions in state funding, the university announced Wednesday.
The school also will cut men’s and women’s skiing and women’s gymnastics. The moves will save about $2.5 million a year, chancellor Cathy Sandeen said.
“The decision to cut any UAA program, academic or athletic, is devastating,” she said. “Since fiscal year 2014, state funding for UAA declined by $34 million, forcing leadership to make difficult decisions about which programs and services the university can sustain long term. My heart goes out to our student-athletes and coaching staffs affected by this situation. This comes at a difficult time as they are already facing much uncertainty surrounding this year’s season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Seawolves will go from sponsoring 13 sports to nine.
The hockey team began play in 1979, made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1990-92 and has produced nine NHL players. The Seawolves have struggled in recent years, winning just 11 games over the last three seasons.
“As one of the longest-tenured programs in the current Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Alaska Anchorage has been a valued member of the league since joining the WCHA in 1993,” WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said. “We are deeply disappointed that the university will no longer compete in men’s ice hockey following the upcoming season but do understand their situation.”
The ski program dates to 1970, and the Seawolves have had nine skiers win national championships. The NCAA combines men’s and women’s results to calculate team scoring, and UAA has finished fifth or higher nationally five times.
About 55 athletes, seven coaches and two athletic department staff members are impacted.
Travel to the Lower 48 states for competitions exacerbated the athletic department’s financial woes. Recent budget issues made the situation untenable.
Last fall the Board of Regents voted to consolidate academic programs and services to meet budget reductions. University leaders and Gov. Mike Dunleavy agreed on a $70 million reduction in state funds to the university system from 2020-22.
The athletic department already cut $1 million in expenses over the last two years.
The Kenai River Brown Bears have four players listed as being committed to playing hockey for the Seawolves: Soldotna’s Preston Weeks, Anchorage’s Skylar Gutierrez, Eagle River’s Zach Krajnik and Wasilla’s Porter Schachle. Weeks, Krajnik and Schachle already are on the roster for the upcoming season, along with Wasilla’s Tanner Schachle, who played for the Brown Bears in the 2014-15 season.
UAA is a popular landing spot for players from the North American Hockey League, of which Kenai River is a member. UAA’s roster for this season has 12 NAHL players.