Alaska Anchorage dropping hockey program after 2020-21 season, with state funding the root cause

Tanner Schachle will be a senior next season for UAA, and is also an Alaska native (Wasilla) who played his junior hockey in the state for the NAHL’s Fairbanks Ice Dogs and Kenai River Brown Bears (photo: Skip Hickey/UAA Athletics).

Alaska Anchorage announced Wednesday that the school will “reconfigure UAA athletics in order to preserve the program’s long-term viability.”

Part of the changes include the school dropping men’s hockey after the 2020-21 season.

Significant reductions in state funding have dramatically shifted the university’s fiscal situation, according to a news release.

The changes will go into effect for the 2021-22 season and are expected to save approximately $2.5 million per year. Women’s gymnastics and men’s and women’s skiing will also be eliminated.

“The decision to cut any UAA program, academic or athletic, is devastating,” said UAA chancellor Dr. Cathy Sandeen in a statement. “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. 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.”

Alaska Anchorage, Alaska (Fairbanks) and Alabama Huntsville – three schools currently part of the WCHA – were already not going to be part of the revamped CCHA that is expected to start in 2021-22 made up of WCHA teams.

“This is not an outcome that any of us would choose if not confronted with the reality of our fiscal situation,” UAA director of athletics Greg Myford said. “Our student-athletes are continually recognized for the strength of their academic performance and the contributions they have made to this community through their many hours of volunteer work. Their tenacity is evident in athletic competition. They are winners. We are committed to doing all we can to help them make informed decisions about their best path forward.”

WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson released a statement following the announcement.

“As one of the longest-tenured programs in the current Western Collegiate Hockey Association, Alaska Anchorage has been a valued member of the league since joining the WCHA in 1993,” said Robertson. “We are deeply disappointed that the university will no longer compete in men’s ice hockey following the upcoming season but do understand their situation.

“I’m certain this was a difficult decision for UAA chancellor Dr. Cathy Sandeen and director of athletics Greg Myford and was arrived at following thoughtful and thorough review of the ramifications for the university and the student-athletes, coaches and staff it is affecting.

“Lastly, we want to extend our best wishes to Alaska Anchorage head coach Matt Curley, his assistant coaches, support staff and the Seawolf players affected by this decision and hope to see all of them with new schools for the 2021-22 season.”