Monday, October 24, 2011

Alabama-Huntsville Drops Hockey

The inevitable became the reality Monday.

The University of Alabama-Huntsville announced that it is dropping its varsity Division I men's hockey program, effective at the end of the season.

UAH interim president Malcolm Portera made the announcement, one week before he leaves the position to make room for the school's new president.

As a result of a financial analysis of our athletic program, and numerous conversations I have had with athletic directors, university presidents and commissioners of Division I ice hockey programs, it has become obvious that, for the best interest of this university, our athletic department and the ice hockey program, we move the team from the Division I level back to its original classification as a club sport at the end of the 2011-2012 season," Portera said in a written statement.

Portera said the cost savings from cutting hockey will allow the university to enhance the other 15 sports on campus.

"We will continue to honor the scholarship commitment made to these students, and if a student-athlete chooses to transfer to another program, we will provide help in making that relocation as seamless as possible," Portera said. "Coaches will remain on our staff through May 31, 2012, and the university will assist them in their endeavors to seek future employment."

The school's team will move back to club level, and its players will have an opportunity to transfer to another Division I school without the normal one-year waiting period.

(A few years back, UMD had a defenseman named Ryan Swanson, who transferred after Iona dropped its hockey program. He also had the ability to transfer without sitting a season. Isn't the NCAA nice like that?)

I've got nothing to say, really. It makes me sick that college hockey's powers that be -- all of them -- could have done more to help save this program. It also makes me sick that the University of Alabama system so badly failed this program. They turned away from a grassroots group raising over $500,000 and also backed away from other potential means of funding the program, all in the name of trying to "enhance" the school's Division II sports.

Instead of blabbing, I'll point to stuff I wrote in 2009, when UAH was inexplicably rejected by the CCHA.

It's probably curtains for the UAH program very soon. There's little chance of a Division I team being able to sustain itself as the only independent in the land. They'd have to rely on bye weeks to get non-conference dates, and good luck getting anyone willing to play in Huntsville.

... Quite simply, the CCHA took the easy way out. For college hockey fans, it's a horrible disappointment.  

The writing was on the wall then, and it's too bad that nobody tried to wash it off in the two years since.

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