University of Alaska regents give Anchorage hockey and gymnastics teams more time to fundraise

The Seawolf logo outside of the University of Alaska Anchorage Student Union.
The Seawolf logo outside of the University of Alaska Anchorage Student Union. Photographed on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)

The University of Alaska Board of Regents agreed Thursday to reinstate Anchorage’s hockey and gymnastics teams as long as they reach their fundraising goals by new, extended deadlines.

UA leaders applauded the sports programs for raising a big chunk of the money so far.

“I’m so excited about this, the momentum,” said UA Interim President Pat Pitney. “The community support has been just remarkable.”

The two University of Alaska Anchorage sports, along with alpine skiing, found themselves on the chopping block last fall.

Facing a looming budget gap, regents voted to cut costs by ending the three sports programs in 2021. But, they also provided a big caveat: They said they’d consider reversing that decision if the teams raised enough money to cover two years of their operating expenses by February.

The UAA ski team reached its $628,000 fundraising goal in December, and got reinstated the next month.

Meanwhile, men’s hockey has raised just over half of its $3 million goal, and gymnastics has raised about 40% of the $888,000 it needs, according to a presentation at Thursday’s regent meeting.

“In such a short period, in my opinion, there’s a huge amount that’s already been raised,” said regent Ralph Seekins. “I’m very impressed.” 

Seekins joined the rest of the regents in voting unanimously Thursday to reinstate hockey and gymnastics if they reach new deadlines:

• Gymnastics can compete in its 2021-2022 athletic season if it raises $444,000 by June 30, 2021. For reinstatement beyond that, it needs to raise another $444,000 by June 30, 2022.

• Hockey needs to raise $3 million by Aug. 30, 2021, and then it can resume play for the 2022-2023 athletic season. 

Hockey is expected to treat the upcoming season as a planning year because, in part, it needs to rebuild its team, said UAA Interim Chancellor Bruce Schultz.

Only one athlete is returning to the team after this semester. The rest will have either graduated or transferred to another school amid the fundraising uncertainty. 

There’s also another catch to Thursday’s vote: Hockey needs to reach its fundraising goal for gymnastics to stay and vice versa. Schultz said UAA cannot just keep one of the programs because of Title IX requirements.

“We’re certainly attached at the hip,” Hockey coach Matt Curley quipped after Thursday’s meeting.

But, he said, that doesn’t worry him. The programs are very supportive of one another.

Curley said, overall, the regents’ vote Thursday gave him a sense of relief, as did UA leaders’ comments in support of the programs, and in support of working together to sustain the sports long-term. He hopes those comments help attract donors.

“I think now we all see the light at the end of the tunnel, we see that there’s a path forward,” he said.

Gymnastics coach Marie-Sophie Boggasch said she feels confident the teams will reach their new deadlines.

“So we’re definitely celebrating,” she said, “but obviously it’s not the full-on celebration yet because there’s still work ahead.”

Reach reporter Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8447.

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