‘Save Seawolf Hockey’ aims to revive UAA’s Division I program
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The University of Alaska Anchorage announced on August 19 their decision to cut four athletic programs including, the Division-I hockey team. Since then, Save Seawolf Hockey mounted a campaign in an attempt to save one of two of Alaska’s National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey teams.
“Obviously, it’s a tremendous amount of effort going on by a lot of people,” said Save Seawolf Hockey’s Kathie Bethard. “Everyone is reaching out to everyone they asking for contributions, big or small, obviously we’d like some big ones to come in, but we’re working on that.”
Save Seawolf Hockey has been tasked by the UAA Board of Regents to raise $3 million by February 15, 2021 to bring the program back from the cutting floor. On that fateful day of August 19, the UAA administration with Chancellor Cathy Sandeen and Director of Athletics Greg Myford, decided to cut men’s hockey, women’s gymnastics and men’s and women’s skiing. Those cuts were set to go into effect by the 2021-22 season and save the university approximately $2.5 million per year.
“The decision to cut any UAA program, academic or athletic, is devastating. Since fiscal year 2014, state funding for UAA declined by $34 million, forcing leadership to make difficult decisions about which programs and services the university can sustain long term,” UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said on August 19 in a press release from UAA. “That includes our sports programs. My heart goes out to our student-athletes and coaching staffs affected by this situation. This comes at a difficult time as they are already facing much uncertainty surrounding this year’s season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of the incredible resilience they have shown.”
The cut to the program affects not only the student-athletes and coaches, but it trickles down to the youth hockey programs as well. According to Bethard, the Anchorage Seawolves would help out with camps.
“It’s a fun atmosphere for families and a healthy atmosphere for families,” said Bethard. “That’s what you have to stress too, that the health and well-being of our youth in Anchorage are affected by the university sports program.”
One of the factors that led to UAA’s decision stemmed from Governor Mike Dunleavey’s budget cuts of $70 million reduction in state funds over a three-year period through the ‘20-’22 fiscal years. Save Seawolf Hockey recently announced on December 11, that the organization had raised over $1 million, reaching one-third of their goal.
However, they were dealt a heavy blow on November 13 when UAA announced their decision to opt-out of the 2020-2021 Western Collegiate Hockey Association season. This drastically hampered their efforts to advertise their fundraiser during games according to Bethard.
“You’ll see the quality of hockey in Anchorage, Alaska I believe and perhaps even the state be diminished. It is just so important to the community and not just to the hockey players but to the community as a whole,” said Bethard. “It is so important to have a vibrant university, one that has a vibrant athletic program for people to relate to. A reason for kids to stay in Alaska to go to school. That is what we are trying to do, expand the community, keep it going and keep this team going for sure.”
The deadline for Save Seawolf Hockey and the Anchorage Seawolves hockey program to raise their funds is February 15, 2021.
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