The University of Alaska Anchorage announced it will reconfigure UAA athletics in order to preserve the program’s long-term viability, according to the school. Significant reductions in state funding have dramatically shifted the university’s fiscal situation.
In light of declining budgets, UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and Director of Athletics Greg Myford made the difficult decision to eliminate four programs from the UAA sports roster: men’s hockey, women’s gymnastics, men’s skiing and women’s skiing. The changes will go into effect for the 2021-22 season and are expected to save approximately $2.5 million per year. Sandeen will seek University of Alaska Board of Regents’ approval for the proposed reconfiguration during the Sept. 10-11, 2020, meeting.
“The decision to cut any UAA program, academic or athletic, is devastating. 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,” Sandeen said. “That includes our sports programs. 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. I am proud of the incredible resilience they have shown.”
The university’s decision to discontinue these sports follows on the heels of the Board of Regents’ direction last fall to consolidate academic programs and services to meet budget reductions. In August 2019, University of Alaska leadership came to an agreement with Gov. Dunleavy on a $70 million reduction in state funds to the university system over the three-year period of fiscal years ’20, ’21 and ’22.
Today’s athletics announcement comes more than a full year in advance of these changes going into effect to allow impacted students, coaching staffs and their families time to plan for the future. UAA Athletics will assist student-athletes with scholarship information, academic advising, counseling options and navigating the transfer process.
“This is not an outcome that any of us would choose if not confronted with the reality of our fiscal situation,” Myford said. “Our student-athletes are continually recognized for the strength of their academic performance and the contributions they have made to this community through their many hours of volunteer work. Their tenacity is evident in athletic competition. They are winners. We are committed to doing all we can to help them make informed decisions about their best path forward.”
Who made the decision to eliminate these sports?
The decision to eliminate hockey, gymnastics and skiing was made by Chancellor Sandeen in conjunction with Director of Athletics Greg Myford. At the University of Alaska Board of Regents’ meeting on Sept. 10-11, 2020, Chancellor Sandeen will seek approval for the proposed athletics reconfiguration. UAA anticipates the board will support the recommendation based on the regents’ previous directive to consolidate academic programs and administrative areas to meet budget reductions.
How many student-athletes and employees are impacted?
This decision does not impact any seniors on track to graduate this year because the change does not go into effect until the 2021-22 athletic season. Approximately 55 student-athletes are impacted, as well as seven coaches and two staff members.
How many jobs will be impacted by this decision?
There are seven coaches and two staff positions impacted by this decision in the 2021-22 athletic season. These sports and the associated paid positions will remain in place until the cuts are implemented in fiscal year ’22.
Why announce these changes now?
There is never a good time to announce changes of this magnitude and impact, but our commitment is to provide affected student-athletes, coaches and staff ample time to consider their options and make informed decisions about their next steps.
Why did UAA decide to eliminate these sports?
UAA leadership based the decision to eliminate these sports on UAA Athletics’ current and future fiscal projections. UAA Athletics also considered NCAA and GNAC criteria and federal Title IX law. Each has very specific rules and minimum requirements to remain a member in good standing.
Other universities have saved their programs through an online appeal from their fan base. If that were to happen, would you consider reversing this decision?
What has occurred recently at other universities, such as the University of Alabama-Huntsville, was a beneficial outcome for their hockey program. But it is a short-term solution. After the coming season, their athletics department will need to resolve 2021-22 funding for the program because the money raised will not cover a full season of expenses. We are concerned about the long-term viability of UAA Athletics. Outside support would need to align with a plan for long-term sustainability in order to move forward.
Release courtesy of University of Alaska.