ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- The University of Alaska Anchorage announced Wednesday that it will discontinue its men’s hockey program following the 2020-21 season. The school also eliminated its women’s gymnastics, men’s skiing and women’s skiing teams.
The Seawolves have been a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association since 1993.
The cuts were made “in order to preserve the program's long-term viability,” UAA said in a news release, while also citing “significant reductions” in state funding. The changes are expected to save about $2.5 million per year.
The move will be presented to the University of Alaska Board of Regents for approval in September.
"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," UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said in the release. "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."
Where the Seawolves would have played beyond the upcoming season had been up in the air since last summer when seven WCHA members announced they would leave the league to form a new conference. The new Central Collegiate Hockey Association will begin play in 2021-22, without remaining WCHA members Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks and Alabama Huntsville.
The WCHA’s uncertain future did not influence UAA’s decision, the school said in the FAQ section of its announcement.
“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 men’s commissioner Bill Robertson said in a release. “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.”
Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Dan White issued a statement Wednesday reassuring the school community that UAF has no plans to reduce the number of sports it offers.
Alabama Huntsville announced in May it was cutting its men’s hockey team, only for the program to be restored a week later thanks to a fundraising effort by UAH fans and supporters.
Alaska Anchorage has struggled in recent years, on and off the ice.
The state’s budget crunch forced the Seawolves to move home games from the 6,290-seat Sullivan Arena to its 750-seat on-campus practice rink last season.
Alaska Anchorage last posted a winning season in 2013-14 when it finished sixth in the newly reconfigured WCHA. The Seawolves have ranked in the bottom three of the league every year since, most recently finishing eighth last season with a 4-25-7 overall record.
The program began at the Division II level in 1979 before ascending to Division I in 1984. UAA qualified for three consecutive NCAA tournaments as an independent in 1990, 1991 and 1992, its only NCAA appearances.
Alaska Anchorage has played alongside Bemidji State since the Beavers joined the WCHA in 2010.
BSU is 18-3-5 all-time against the Seawolves since the programs first met in 2010.
The Beavers are scheduled to meet UAA in Anchorage on Nov. 6-7 this season, with a return trip to Bemidji on Jan. 15-16, though the schedule is subject to change due to the coronavirus pandemic.