UAA Athletics

UAA ski team raises the $628,000 needed to seek reinstatement of alpine squad

With one final, generous donation from an athlete’s family two days before Christmas, the UAA ski team reached the fundraising goal needed to save the alpine squad from elimination.

A gift of $12,000 on Dec. 23 lifted the team’s money-raising total to $628,000 in cash and pledges, enough to meet the terms of a deal offered in September by the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents.

Hopefully it’s all downhill from here, ski coach Sparky Anderson said Monday.

“I think the fact we’ve had in the neighborhood of 500 individual donations ... speaks volumes and demonstrates the kind of support our sport has,” he said. “The kind of support we’ve seen and the timeline it arrived in should demonstrate to the regents and president and chancellor that this is a quality program and it should stick around.”

[How to raise $$628,000? For the UAA ski team, the answer may be $1,000 at a time]

The next step, Anderson said, is for the University of Alaska Foundation to certify the donations. Then he hopes UAA athletic director Greg Myford and UAA interim chancellor Bruce Schultz will make the case to regents that a quick reinstatement is warranted.

“We go on the road Jan. 8 and I’d like to know we’re solid before that,” Anderson said. “I know that might not happen.

“I’m trying to get them to be on board with the fact I need to get back to recruiting and coaching, and I have to have honest conversations with the families of kids I’m trying to bring to school here. I’m hoping President Pat Pitney and the Regents will understand there’s a level of urgency.”

The regents in September voted to eliminate three sports — alpine skiing, hockey and gymnastics — but said they would consider reinstatement for any program that could raise two years of operating costs, half in cash and half in pledges, by their next scheduled meeting in February.

The hockey program needs to raise $3 million and the gymnastics team needs to raise $880,000. Neither has met its goal yet.

The ski team met its goal with donations large and small, from all over Alaska and the rest of the United States. Gifts ranged from $5 to $50,000, Anderson said.

The $50,000 came from Ski Racing Magazine, which said it would donate that amount if readers would match it. They did.

The final $12,000 came on Dec. 23 while Anderson was on the phone with William Bamber, the father of freshman skier Moro Bamber of Toronto. The Seawolves were about $12,000 shy of meeting their goal, Anderson told Bamber.

“He said, hey, you’re really close, let’s just make this happen. He wrote a check and he did it online so it was immediate, (and) that effectively gave us the best Christmas present the athletes and the team could have wanted,” Anderson said.

It lifted an avalanche of worry from Anderson, who said raising money was “a 24/7 endeavor” from the day the regents decided to cut the program on Sept. 10.

“It’s been all-consuming,” he said. “The nicest thing was to have this done before Christmas so I could actually have a conversation with my family that didn’t include talking about this target.”

The ski team met its goal with donations large and small, from all over Alaska and the rest of the United States. Gift6 ranged from $5 to $50,000, Anderson said.1 school year. They said they “will consider reestablishing” any program that is able to meet its fundraising goal6s.

“I have to believe that they will be good to their word,” Anderson said.

It’s the second time Anderson has had to fight for the survival of UAA skiing, which has produced numerous NCAA All-Americans and a handful of NCAA champions over the years. In 2016, regents considered cutting skiing but backed off after an outpouring of community support. Four years later, the regents targeted the program again but offered a lifeline in the form of the fundraising challenge.

Now that the ski team has met that challenge, Anderson hopes his days as a fundraiser are over.

“I don’t think you can do this on the backs of the ski team forever. The university and the athletic department (are) going to have to share a little bit of the burden moving forward,” he said. “Skiing has demonstrated some ability that we can do this kind of thing but that shouldn’t mean we are the ones that have to do it all the time.

“We’ve demonstrated we’re an important arm of the university. We’re bringing good kids to the university, we’re putting kids in classrooms and we’re making the town a better place. This has been a good way to showcase that to the administration, so I’m hoping we’re left alone or at least supported for decades to come.”

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