UA regents approve cuts to sports programs

The Board of Regents voted on the changes Thursday afternoon
Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 2:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The University of Alaska Board of Regents has approved cuts to several UA sports programs, to take effect during the next fiscal year, unless teams can raise money to cover costs.

The alternative proposal presented at the board meeting was to approve elimination of gymnastics, hockey and alpine skiing — effective fiscal year 2021-22 — applying specifically to the University of Alaska Anchorage. The cuts of three sports will eliminate four different programs, including the Division I men’s hockey and women’s gymnastics programs, as well as both men’s and women’s downhill skiing.

“A bunch of my time the past few weeks has been spent advocating and pursuing solutions,” said UAA Skiing Coach Sparky Anderson. “It’s unprecedented. We really had to scramble to come up with solutions that made sense and might gain traction with the regents.”

The board, in its updated proposal, said supporters of the cut programs have the opportunity to get them reinstated by raising two years' worth of expenses by February 2021, which equates to about $888,000 for gymnastics; $3 million for men’s hockey; and $628,000 for downhill skiing. That funding includes one year of cash and one year of firm pledges.

“The outcome could’ve been worse,” said Marie-Sophie Boggasch, UAA’s interim gymnastics coach. “There’s that silver lining, that hope. And I hope that we’re going to be able to capitalize on that public outreach that we’ve had.”

The Nordic skiing team may also continue to solicit private support.

“I don’t know that we’ll reach those dollar figures, unless we can use the entire community,” Anderson said. "And I think that’s the greater goal: To be able to meet these numbers, to demonstrate we have the capacity in this community to fund a team that could potentially win a championship.

“We realize we need to do our fair share for the university," he said. “At the same time, we can’t be so restricted that that’s not attainable.”

UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen said in a prepared statement following Thursday’s meeting that the cuts were “difficult,” but that there’s opportunity in the current path forward, with a window of time for teams to raise private funds.

“I am hopeful the community will seize this opportunity and rally behind our sports teams," she wrote in part. “UAA’s $34 million decline in state funding since fiscal year 2014 has forced leadership to make difficult cuts to academic programs and administrative areas and precipitated the proposed cuts to athletics.”

Next year, the school faces another $7.2 million cut, according to Sandeen.

“Without alternate revenue streams," she wrote, “UAA’s fiscal reality requires us to become smaller and more focused.”

As approved by the regents, the changes will go into effect for the 2021-22 sports seasons. The cuts are expected to save the university about $2.4 million annually, benefiting UAA specifically since each university manages its own budget.

“Certainly to get our team back to full strength, I’m going to explore every avenue that I can,” Anderson said, “look under every rock and every tree, and we’ll see what we come up with.”

Thursday’s meeting itself included reports from the president, chancellors and governance, and along with a financial briefing and discussion of the university’s budget and UAA athletics, the full board is also considering several action items. You can view the meeting live online when it commences again on Friday, which is when the board will hear committee reports, receive a Title IX update, and consider additional action items.

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