University weighs 3 options for athletic budgets, preps for deep cuts
The storm was coming, everybody just didn’t know when.
In February, University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) athletic director Keith Hackett said that with oil prices plummeting, the dominos would lead to heavier than usual cuts to athletics.
“For months, I don’t think anybody has really realized that there’s really a budget crisis here,” Hackett said during a news conference on Thursday, “I think there is certainty, unless we get any kind of budget relief, that would be the only way we could spare all the programs.”
The programs at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) were also in the equation. Three recommendations have been offered by a team of decision-makers including both Hackett and UAF athletic director Dr. Gary Gray: complete dissolution of the departments, combining them, or keeping each separate and making cuts.
Among the sports on the chopping block at UAA are hockey, gymnastics, as well men’s and women’s skiing. Men’s and women’s soccer could replace hockey.
The reality is sinking in for people like Kurt Haider, the longtime former voice of the UAA Seawolves.
“The initial take away from this is, ‘Yikes, something’s coming down the line, and it may not be good,'” Haider said. “As part of the whole hockey community, we don’t want to see UAA Hockey go away. I don’t want to see hockey go away. I still have some green and gold blood coursing through my veins.”
UAA’s budget is $10.6 million, but $1.7 million must be cut from the athletics budget by July 1, 2017.
The hockey program costs $1.9 million.
At UAF, hockey is also a potential target along with the nationally ranked rifle program, women’s swimming, along with men’s and women’s skiing. Soccer could be a replacement in Fairbanks, too.
“To have a program to do the things you have to do, there’s a certain cost below which it becomes not a good experience,” athletic director Gray said.
This season will not be affected but changes could come soon.
“It couldn’t be this year because things are in motion, scholarships, travel, schedules, staff, etc.” Gray said. “So my guess, only a guess, would be no earlier than the following year which we call FY 18.”
It gives teams a moment to catch their breath. And wonder.
All three options set before the University of Alaska Board of Regents involve either eliminating or reducing hockey.
“There’s nothing easy about these decisions,” said Hackett.
And with no clear answer in sight, he isn’t sure how successful recruiting will be for next year.
“I go back to, ‘These are options, no decision’s made,'” Hackett said. “And we’ll just have to, we have to hang on tight. Our coaches are still recruiting.”
He explained that if students are on sports scholarships, the University will work with them so they can continue at UAA if they choose. But, he said they aren’t too concerned with the logistics, because their athletic scholarships have one-year terms.
The UA Board of Regents is expected to make tough decisions by November.
There are public hearings scheduled for the public to weigh in:
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Wood Center Ballroom
University of Alaska Anchorage
Student Union Cafeteria, North & South
University of Alaska Southeast
Egan Lecture Hall
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