Alaska University Hockey Programs Are on Thin Ice

With the price of a barrel of oil hovering around $48.00 a barrel, oil producing states are experiencing financial hardships. The money isn’t rolling in like it used to. Budget shortfalls are being passed on to the university systems. One of those states that’s feeling the pinch of the budget shortfalls is the state of Alaska.

Last week, the Alaska University system announced that they had to trim 50 million from their budget. Alaska’s college hockey fans could end up feeling the effects. The blowback of Alaska’s financial hardship could be costly for one or both hockey programs at Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks. While it sounds cliché, both Alaska hockey programs are on thin ice.

“At every one of our campuses, something is likely to go away,” University of Alaska President James R. said. “And if every campus is losing something, then every campus has a constituency that is aggrieved.”

“Those options certainly aren’t favorable,” UAA hockey coach Matt Thomas said. “None of them look good for athletics in the state at all.”

Here are the solutions put forward by the Alaska-System’s Strategic Pathways report. As you can see, the options aren’t good for college hockey.

No. 1 — Elimination of one or both athletic programs.

No. 2 — Consortium model between UAF and UAA.

No. 3 — Compete in *Division II sports and cut hockey at both Schools (UAA and UAF).

No. 4 — Compete in *Division II sports and cut the hockey program at UAA but keep it at UAF.

*With the exception of division I college hockey and skiing, the Alaska schools compete in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, an all-sport Division II conference.

If both schools cut their hockey programs, it could have a profound effect on the college hockey landscape.

First, eliminating both programs would mean that hockey players from Alaska would wouldn’t have the option of playing division I hockey in Alaska.

Second, it could cause a domino effect for the rest of the college hockey. This could cause another round of college hockey realignment.

Finally, the Alaska Board of Regents will make their final decision on this matter later this fall. Alaska hockey fans could know the fate of their hockey programs as early as November 10, 2016.