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College Hockey:
Program’s demise ‘frustrating,’ Alabama-Huntsville alum Bowen says

As a former player and coach at Alabama-Huntsville, Nathan Bowen knows firsthand what the Chargers’ Division I hockey program has meant to not only the university, but to the Huntsville community.

With Monday’s announcement that UAH will be downgraded to club status starting next season, Bowen didn’t mince words when expressing his disappointment.

“It’s frustrating because we can’t get any information from the Huntsville administration,” said Bowen, a member of a local group of UAH alumni and friends that has been raising money to keep the UAH program alive. “The number $1.5 million keeps getting thrown out there, yet no one seems to know what that number entails.

“What’s frustrating us the most is that we haven’t even been given the opportunity to help and work through this. Give us three years and if it doesn’t work, we’re big boys, then shut this thing down and put it to club. If the right people ran this program the way it should be run, Huntsville could be a real gem and be a real revenue source, but it’s not being run properly and has never been given proper support from the school’s administration. Another fact, too, is that season tickets weren’t on sale until Sept. 15 and the season started Oct. 1. You do the math.”

When Bowen played for UAH from 1996 to 2000, the Chargers won the Division II national championship his freshman year and then the program made the jump to Division I.

“When I played here, the program was very healthy and a lot of really good things were happening,” Bowen said. “Even recently, with guys like Scotty Munroe, Jared Ross and Cam Talbot playing here and then playing in the NHL, there was never any indication the program going club was on the horizon. Coaching-wise, Doug Ross busted his [behind] and so did Danton Cole and now Chris Luongo.

“There is no business plan, no marketing plan and no corporate sponsorship plan here. There are so many business-savvy alumni who have pledged to help and what we pledged to do was to have the school provide the scholarships and we would fund the rest and take on the financial burden. We have to try, and even with the new president coming in Nov. 1, we’re hoping he will look at the situation and maybe this decision can be reversed.

“We owe it to the 23 kids on the roster to try and find a solution.”

Interim president Malcolm Portera announced the decision to remove varsity status on Monday. Portera, who is also the chancellor of the University of Alabama system, is scheduled to make way for incoming UAH president Robert Altenkirch on Oct. 31.

UAH athletic department officials did not respond to an interview request, but Luongo issued a statement to USCHO via email.

“It is a sad day for Alabama-Huntsville, the city of Huntsville and hockey in the south,” he wrote. “There is a tremendous hockey culture in the Huntsville area that was built on the presence and hard work of UAH hockey and it will suffer greatly from this decision. I want to thank UAH hockey supporters for the tremendous support they have shown UAH hockey over the years. Our student-athletes, alumni and our supporters are devastated by this move.”

Bowen expressed dismay that the decision to kill the varsity program was made by Portera.

“The other piece to this is that the people examining the situation spent more time outside of Huntsville than anywhere,” said Bowen. “They didn’t get a feel for the community. We have the support of the mayor and the city and county passed resolutions to support the hockey program. Those that said they would step up to help have all put their money where their mouth is.

“It seems like we have phenomenal support from everyone but administration.”


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  • MM

    it’s a shame that College Hockey hasn’t helped this squad in any way.Leaving them out of a conference to play in was the last straw. I hope all the players that committed to this program will be looked after.I wouldn’t want to be the one telling these players that the decision to come to UAH was bogus. MM

    • UAHalum

      Portera might have struck the mortal blow, but most (not all) of the college hockey family stood by and just watched. Shame on those organizations for not trying to protect one of their own. And now we are faced with the
      ramifications of the loss of the program. The greatest loss (other than the obvious) is that the UAH coaching staff, players and player alumni have had a direct impact on youth hockey programs in the area.

  • CCHA_oldtimer

    The jerk in the president’s seat will be leaving soon.  Maybe boosters can go back at this in January.  I certainly wouldn’t give up UAH!  There are going to be opportunities to join a league in the next few years.  League alignments and memberships have not stopped changing.  Hang in there UAH.  Give it time. Your persistence and fundraising will win in the end.

  • Espn

    Interim Presidents should not be making big decisions like this.

  • Spidermonkey86

    This is a sad day for college hockey. UAH offered college hockey an outpost to expand past the frostbelt. Now the window for expanding past Northeast and Great Lakes region may have closed forever.

    Too bad College Hockey wasted so much time fawning over an over hyped Notre Dame rather than protecting one of it’s own. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U4TTWIUOUP7J5QK7V47EAF67YI adam

    If there are plans to keep trying to reverse this decision, then one of the conferences that will still be around in 2013 needs to step up and publicly state that if UAH reversed the decision, then they will be admitted into that conference. 

    • Spanky

      Im so sick of these comments….No one is under any obligation to help UAH. You don’t here people saying people should “step up” and help the remaining Big East football teams. Because people know football is about money. Well D1 hockey is too. No conf wants to take on the travel costs to play a team with little fan supoort and will just be a perennial bottom feeder. This isn’t women’s softball….if UAH can’t make it financiallly then they deserve to be gone.

      • GopherPuck

        Sorry but you are way off here. Of course D1 hockey is about money. You might as well say the sky is blue. But in order to make more money, they need to expand on a national level. College football doesn’t need any help and if you argue against that than you’re either arguing for the sake of arguing or you just like the “sound” of your own voice. College hockey as a whole does have an obligation here. If they ever want to expand nationally you have to start with programs like UAH. What they should’ve done (years ago) was helped to fund some other southern schools and started actually laying a foundation for college hockey all over the US. If the NHL can have teams in TX, FL, AZ, CA, then by god ncaa hockey could exist there too. Damn the man, save UAH!!!

  • Guest

    heartbreaking.  just heartbreaking.  I can’t believe no one in the college hockey world (i’m looking at you CCHA) came to UAH’s rescue.  I thought college hockey was a brotherhood.  You’ll have your teams travel to Alaska, but not northern Alabama?!  which is actually very central and would’ve been a great fit for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.  and I know your days as a league are numbered, but that just means UAH could’ve gone along with the other members to join the new WCHA.  instead, we’re now going to lose another brother from the college hockey family.  Not cool.

    • Anonymous

      The schools in Alaska cover the travel costs for the current WCHA and CCHA teams, so that’s why those teams are willing to travel to Alaska. Maybe you should look to ECAC or Hockey East to step in and save them as they already have the cheapest travel of all the conferences and would be able to afford the travel to Huntsville much better than the CCHA (soon to be WCHA) schools.  How would you like to play in a conference where you could potentially have to travel to Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Huntsville all in the same year.  The small  CCHA schools owe as much to UAH as the ECAC, Hockey East, and Atlantic Hockey do, but I’ve yet to hear anyone complain about those conferences not letting UAH in.

    • Anonymous

      You’re looking at the CCHA?! Are you kidding?  The same CCHA that has been screwed over by half of its own teams?  I don’t know if you noticed, but the CCHA won’t exist two years from now.  So I guess you want the new WCHA, which runs from from Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Minnesota and Alaska to take responsibility for a hockey team in ALABAMA?    Because the ECAC and the Orono to South Bend Hockey East are just way too geographically compact to make room for Huntsville.  

      I feel as bad for Huntsville as anyone, but – you know what – it didn’t make any sense to admit them to the CCHA. Probably not a couple of years ago, and clearly not now. I wish that more D1 teams existed in the southern US, and I always hate to see a program go down.  But pinning this on the CCHA is just absurd.  The CCHA put it’s neck way out a few years ago to help Fairbanks, just like the WCHA helped out Anchorage.  Yes, I know the Alaska schools pay for travel, but it’s still a rough trip for any team to go up there. I’m glad they did it.  That was a great thing for college hockey, but a  lot of good it did for the league when the Big 10 and NACHO punks decided there might be more cash to be made somewhere else.  If someone needed to throw UAH a lifeline, it was the eastern leagues’ turn to step up.

  • Jpepper

    Yes, college hockey conferences should be ashamed of themselves.  D1 hockey isn’t a big time sport, you have to take care of your own.  The fact the CCHA thought they were too good for UHA is laughable.  I hope the NCAA drops the number of teams making the NCAA tournament to 12 as a result…serves the  sport right…and I’m a huge fan. 

  • Abceday

    I don’t even know what to say. In a day in age when we’re trying to grow the sport of hockey, we are willing to let a PIONEER of hockey outside the “frost belt” just die out.

    Forget divisions for a minute… a two-time NCAA Champion has been lost forever. Well done.

  • Guest

    is it me or does it seem stupid that we are having a frozen four in tampa bay hosted by a school that wont even be an ncaa D1 school next year!!!!!!
     

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