Photo: Bob Eastaugh

A fundraising campaign to support the threatened University of Alaska Anchorage ski team reached a significant milestone this week securing all needed cash donations to save the team. As part of that larger fundraising effort, Ski Racing Media also launched its own $50,000 matching campaign, which reached its goal this week and will deliver a total of $100,000 to overall effort, assuming the full terms of the campaign are met. 

The campaign is broken down into two parts: cash (which has been achieved) and pledges for the following year (which remains about $73,000 short of its goal). Cash is still preferred but not needed — and some cash has now been applied to the pledge campaign. Ski Racing’s contribution is included in the overall numbers on the campaign’s website.  

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It’s a little complicated, but the most important takeaway is pledges are still needed to ensure the long-term viability of the program. Their hope is to achieve the full pledge amount by Feb. 1, 2021, and to be clear, no cash donations are required at this time — simply a pledge for Fiscal Year 2023.

Details can be found at 314er.com

“We are thrilled that we were able to reach our stated goal of raising $100,000 toward the ‘Friends of UAA’ campaign,” said Ski Racing Chairman Dan Leever. “Fifty percent of those donations came from our readers, and the other 50% will be delivered by Ski Racing Media in conjunction with the Team America Foundation. We implore the ski racing community to take this threat to our sport seriously and encourage additional participation in the pledge campaign. Let’s get it done!” 

Head coach Sparky Anderson has reason to be optimistic, but says he’s still working hard to ensure the viability of the program.

“The best part of this campaign — if you can call any part of it positive — has been the opportunity for innovation and collaboration with a broad spectrum of people who care,” said Anderson. “It’s been a crash course in law, development, advancement, and communication — and the final exam is fast approaching. We’re close to our cash goal. I’m grateful for the Ski Racing Media match. This is an important fight. I truly believe that, if successful, we can help stop the trend of universities abandoning Olympic sports, like skiing. I believe we’ll succeed, but we need to keep our foot on the gas all the way to the end.”

Program under threat

On Sept. 10, the University of Alaska Anchorage board of regents elected to eliminate alpine ski racing from its roster of NCAA sport programs due to state funding cuts. In doing so, it raised a red flag for many in the ski racing community.

At the NCAA level, Nordic and alpine skiing are considered one sport. In order to preserve its NCAA status, the University of Alaska must continue to support 10 sport programs. The university plans to retain the Nordic program while eliminating alpine, thereby retaining the sport of “skiing” at roughly half the budget.

In a shrinking NCAA west — which in recent years has already lost programs, such as the University of New Mexico, University of Nevada, and Western State College — the revelation that a university could slash one of those two programs, Nordic or alpine, and still “get credit” for the entire skiing program is an alarming one.

To save the program, Anderson, his athletes and the Seawolf community have launched an ambitious fundraising campaign. The goal is to raise a total of $628,000 over the next two years, half of which ($314,000) needs to be secured in cash by Dec. 31, 2020. The remainder can be secured in the form of pledges for the following season. 

Most importantly, Anderson says, if this goal is met, the program will be retained permanently. 

“The chancellor (Cathy Sandeen) said publicly at the board of regents meeting that, if we can raise this money and come up with two years of operating cost, she anticipates restructuring of the university and economic forecasting to improve to the point where the sports that we have will be reinstated and funded,” Anderson said.

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