The University of Alaska Board of Regents approved the elimination of four athletics programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage during a full board meeting Thursday.
Effective June 30 of next year, there will be no women's gymnastics team, no men's hockey and no men's and women's alpine skiing at the Anchorage campus.
That could change if the teams and supporters can raise enough private funding by February to keep the teams operational for two full years. For women's gymnastics, the amount is $888,000; for men's hockey: $3 million and for men's and women's alpine skiing: $628,000.
With alpine skiing being cut, it was emphasized that both men's and women's cross-country skiing will continue at UAA.
UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen announced her intention to cut the programs last month, leaving it up to the regents to make the final decision. In her initial announcement, Sandeen noted the difficulty of the decision but cited years of cuts in state funding to the university as the ultimate factor in her choice to move forward with the cuts.
The regents' vote Friday afternoon was not unanimous, with some regents expressing concern that more wasn't done to preserve the teams and find cost-cutting elsewhere.
However, the motion gained the support of Interim President Pat Pitney, who said she thought leadership "struck a balance" by only eliminating some sports programs.
"These decisions aren't taken lightly, but dealing with $120 million in base funding and the costs and revenues associated with each program, they are a necessary consideration as we go forward," Pitney said during the Thursday meeting.
The university will provide one additional year of scholarships to students on the eliminated athletics teams if they wish to remain at UAA next year.
The elimination of the UAA hockey team means that the University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks men's hockey team is the only NCAA Division I collegiate hockey team in the state and one of only two in the West. The other is the Arizona State University Sun Devils.
With the discontinuation of the UAA Seawolf hockey team, UAF Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Director of Athletics Keith Champagne said UAF will be working to collaborate more with ASU and the Sun Devils.
"We're hoping to create some excitement between the Sun Devils and the Nanooks, maybe some fire and ice or a West Coast Cup," Champagne said Thursday evening. "It's not to say we want to benefit at the detriment of our sister institution in Anchorage, but I am confident in our (Fairbanks) hockey brand. It is iconic and I think it's going to improve our scope in terms of recruiting around the globe now that we are the premier hockey program and the Great Northwest."
Regents will meet again Friday to continue budget discussions and hear an update on the university's standing with regard to compliance with Title IX – a 1972 federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal funding.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.