The University of Alaska’s Board of Regents will decide the fate of UAA hockey and gymnastics in a few days, and before they do they’ll consider a plan that would keep the hockey team idle for one more season while extending the fundraising deadline for each program.
A solution proposed by UAA interim chancellor Bruce Schultz and and UAA athletic director Greg Myford would keep the Seawolves hockey team off the ice for the 2021-22 season. The team is sitting out this season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If they accept the proposal, the gymnastics team could return to action next school year if it can meet a new fundraising goal.
“We feel very confident about the path forward,” Myford said Saturday.
In September, the regents cut three sports — hockey, gymnastics and alpine skiing — in an ongoing effort to deal with deep budget cuts. Regents gave each program a chance at reinstatement provided they could raise two years’ worth of operating expenses by the Feb. 25-26 regents meeting.
Skiing met its fundraising goal of $628,000 and was reinstated in December.
Hockey and gymnastics still have significant work to do to meet their goals ($3 million for hockey; $888,000 for gymnastics).
Regents are expected to revisit the issue Thursday, the first day of their two-day meeting.
UAA’s proposal would extend the fundraising deadline for the gymnastics program to June 30 and reduce the amount needed by that date to $444,000, the cost of one season. The program would need to raise another $440,000 by June 30, 2022.
Right now, the program has raised nearly $355,000 in cash and pledges. If it can hit $440,000 by June 30, it would be reinstated next school year.
Hockey’s fundraising deadline would be extended until Aug. 30 of this year, when the entire $3 million would be due. The Seawolves would spend the 2021-22 school year regrouping, and boosters would spend the year working on continued sustainability.
Hockey’s fundraising total stands at $1.56 million in cash and pledges. Kathie Bethard, chairwoman of Save Seawolf Hockey, thinks the school and supporters can meet the proposed August deadline.
“I’m confident we’re going to meet our goal,” she said, “and I’m confident with the time to build up (the program) and market tickets and come up with a good game-day plan and add excitement in that rink, we’re going to have a great product.”
In a memo to regents and UA interim president Pat Pitney, Schultz and Myford said skipping the 2021-22 hockey season “will serve as a pause and planning year” for hockey.
The pause would give coach Matt Curley time to recruit a new team, which Schultz and Myford said “is necessary given only one athlete is expected to remaining on the team after this semester due to transfers and graduations.”
It would give UAA time to build a 2022-23 schedule, because by then the Western Collegiate Hockey Association may be history. A majority of teams are forming a new league, leaving UAA, UAF and Alabama Huntsville behind. UAF has already announced its intentions to play an independent schedule in 2021-22.
The year off from competition would also mean UAA “can better address the inadequacies of the current hockey venue,” according to the memo.
A return to Sullivan Arena could be part of that conversation.
According to the UAA proposal, hockey would need to meet its August fundraising requirement in order for gymnastics to continue beyond the 2021-22 season. Otherwise the school would not be compliant with Title IX gender equity requirements, the memo from Schultz and Myford said.
Bethard said about 1,000 individuals have contributed to Save Seawolf Hockey, and a big boost came recently when the Seattle Kraken — the newest NHL franchise — added its support. Between that and the support of Schultz and Pitney, she said she feels good about the program’s continued existence.
The Board of Regents are scheduled to meet Thursday from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. till noon. Other than executive sessions, it will be streamed live.
Here are the motions the Board of Regents will consider:
The Board of Regents approves the reinstatement of women’s gymnastics at the University of Alaska Anchorage for the 2021-2022 athletic season, contingent upon supporters raising private funding to cover one year of operating expenses ($444,000) by June 30, 2021. For reinstatement beyond the 2021-2022 athletic season, supporters must raise one additional year of operating expenses by June 30, 2022. In the event the 2022-2023 funding goal is not met as required, UAA Gymnastics will be discontinued on June 30, 2022.
Concurrently, and as a condition of maintaining Title IX compliance, UAA Hockey must meet its conditions for program reinstatement, presented separately, in order for UAA Gymnastics to continue beyond the 2021-2022 season. This motion is effective February 25, 2021.
The Board of Regents approves the reinstatement of men’s hockey at the University of Alaska Anchorage to begin play with the 2022-2023 athletic season, contingent upon supporters raising private funding to cover two years of operating expenses ($3,000,000) by August 30, 2021. In the event the funding goal is not met as required, hockey will not be reinstated.