Compass: UAA gives community more than hockey

Seawolf Hockey grabbed sports headlines lately, as local supporters pressed for more influence in the search for a new coach. UAA listened. A second search committee and revised job requirements should please the community and lead to a great coach. Well and good.

But in my view, given the week UAA just had -- graduating 2,315 students and 'topping off' a new home for the Seawolves at the Alaska Airlines Center -- the school's many other achievements are being overlooked by concern over the next chapter for a single sport.

Consider the incredible successes of women's basketball. Over the past seven years, women's basketball has gone 182-42, one the best five records in NCAA Division II, winning Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season titles in 2009 and 2012, and two GNAC tournaments in 2011 and 2012.

In cross-country and track and field, Micah Chelimo has rewritten the record books for UAA. Over a 10-month period, he captured three national titles and five All-American honors. And this week, Seawolf women won the GNAC track and field championship (plus seven individual titles for this meet), overcoming Seattle Pacific's dominance.

UAA volleyball finished its fifth straight winning season this year, and put together a 5-match winning streak in September to carry UAA's Springhill Suites Invitational Championship.

As hard as athletes work in the field, the sports experience at UAA also includes hitting the books hard and growing as a leader and a role model.

In 2012, the combined GPA for Seawolf athletes was 3.2, 19 athletes earned a perfect 4.0 and 70 percent of all UAA athletes ranked above a 3.0. This has been true for 16 of the last 19 years.

And since we're proudly keeping score, here's a few more standout statistics for the Seawolves. Over the last decade UAA produced:

• 210 All-Americans.

• 121 academic All-Americans.

• 15 conference championships ( three in the past year).

• 9 NCAA Division II West Region titles.

And yes, there's more.

For the past three seasons, UAA has placed in the top 10 percent of all NCAA Division II programs in the national colleges Director's Cup, an honor that recognizes national finishes for all sports.

UAA student-athletes made history by sweeping the 2012 GNAC "Athlete-of-the-Year" awards in all seven of its league-sponsored sports.

These are proud moments and true achievements, not unlike watching more than 2,300 students claim their degrees at commencement, 20 of them as UAA scholar-athletes.

This year's commencement was special for me because our daughter-in-law received her second degree from UAA, this time in nutrition.

As we left the Sullivan Arena, I spotted Alysa Horn, one of UAA's great women's basketball players, still in her cap and gown, standing among friends. Seeing her there reminded me of so many exciting evenings I've spent watching basketball in the Wells Fargo Sports Complex, sitting in the bleachers and cheering for our remarkable teams.

Friday's "topping off" event for the new home of Seawolf Athletics in the Alaska Airlines Center was another satisfying moment. Gathered there before the bare beams and bolts, we marveled at the arena's stunning outline against the sky. We recognized the teamwork it represents, not just among the talented designers and builders, but in our whole community. Leaders at all levels came together to help get this much-needed facility built for Anchorage.

So while hockey grows into its next chapter, let's not forget the steady and wonderful achievements -- across the board -- in Seawolf athletics.

Soon we'll all be enjoying a new arena that can showcase the dedication and hard work of our scholar-athletes. Each and every season, they study, train and perform with all their heart and ability. Our role is to watch them strive, celebrate their successes, and stand by them. Go Seawolves!

Fran Ulmer is a former chancellor of UAA and former lieutenant governor of Alaska.