Compass: UAA chancellor says Cobb decision his, future bright

By TOM CASEJune 13, 2013 

Over the past several weeks, UAA has been front and center in the news for a series of events related to our athletic program. Much of what the public has read or heard about has been negative. There is always room for improvement, and mistakes can be made even with good processes and the best of intentions. However, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that UAA has a very good athletic department, staffed by professionals who care deeply for our student-athletes and UAA.

It has been a tumultuous time for us, and for many who love UAA. I have spent a great deal of time listening to both the UAA and Alaska communities; people who have firm positions on all of the issues have passionately expressed their concerns about our athletic program and the leadership of that program. As chancellor of a public institution, I am accountable to the people of Alaska, but most importantly, I'm accountable to our students.

I often have to make difficult decisions, and I take that responsibility very seriously. I believe it's important to listen, learn, evaluate and then to make decisions that are in the best interest of UAA's students, both current and future. After all, the students are the center of higher education, and I work at UAA because I truly believe that a college education can transform the lives of all who take on the challenge of earning a college degree.

I've had to make some tough calls related to Seawolf athletics recently, and none of those decisions have been welcome news to all. Regardless, I want to assure you, the Alaska community, that I made these decisions after deep consideration of what will help move UAA positively forward.

In early May, I made the call to restructure the search process for the next head hockey coach, based in part on the valuable feedback I received from the community about including an expanded perspective on the search committee. We also made changes to the required criteria, expanding the search to include candidates who were not eligible to apply for the original posting but who are nonetheless well-qualified.

We are currently interviewing finalists and the newly combined search committee will soon make candidate recommendations to Vice Chancellor Spindle; we hope to announce a new head hockey coach in the next week or so. We are moving forward with Seawolf hockey, and I'm excited to cheer our student-athletes toward victory on the ice this fall.

In addition to retooling the hockey coach search process, in late May, I also made the difficult decision to remove longtime UAA athletic director Steve Cobb from his position. While a great deal of Dr. Cobb's work over the past 13 years has had a positive impact on many of our student-athletes, it became clear to me that the great divide in the community was not going to be bridged while Steve was at the helm of UAA athletics.

As chancellor of UAA, the decision to change AD leadership was mine alone to make. I decided change was needed to ensure that our athletic program is focused on our student-athletes, and to ensure positive, healthy and productive experiences for all our athletic teams.

I'm grateful to all who have shared their opinions, concerns and ideas with me during this difficult time at UAA. This great outpouring of feedback has further confirmed how passionate Alaskans are about UAA and our future, and that, regardless of the issue, is good news.

The public will continue to hear about Seawolf athletics in the coming months, but I'm confident the positive stories will outweigh the negative as we move forward with a new hockey coach, a new athletic director, and a great group of student-athletes to begin a new season of competition this fall.

Tom Case is chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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