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UAA cancels winter sports due to COVID-19

The Univ. of Alaska Anchorage logo at the Alaska Airlines Center
The Univ. of Alaska Anchorage logo at the Alaska Airlines Center(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 1:42 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The University of Alaska Anchorage announced on Friday that indoor sports will not compete in the upcoming season due to health risks and increasing COVID-19 protocols. This leaves six teams without a season this winter including men’s and women’s indoor track, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s hockey and women’s gymnastics.

“[I] relied upon the guidance of public health officials to make the very difficult decision,” said UAA Chancellor Cathy Sandeen in a press release Friday. “My first priority is the health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and athletics staff.”

The Seawolf Men’s and Women’s ski teams, which practice and compete in both Nordic and Alpine events, will have the opportunity to begin their outdoor seasons later in the month. The NCAA has already ruled that student-athletes of both fall and winter sports will retain an additional year of eligibility due to the widespread disruption that COVID-19 has caused in college athletics this year. Despite not being able to play, teams will be allowed to practice and train at on-campus facilities.

While UAA will not move forward without indoor sports this winter, the University of Alaska Fairbanks and three others from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference opted into the proposed basketball season this winter. In a press release, the UAF Chancellor Daniel White said the Nanooks would be opting into postponed winter intercollegiate athletics seasons when they think it’s safe to do so after the holidays.

“It’s consistent with the approach we’ve taken to university operations over the course of this year,” said White. “A cautious approach leaving options open so we could make decisions as we understood them.”

The UAA Athletic Director Greg Myford said there were discussions between UAA and UAF, but the two schools had to sort out what they were able to do under city and state guidelines.

“There are some different factors that put UAA and UAF in a different spot," said Myford. "I thank the chancellors in their responsibility for making the best decisions for their institutions that’s what they did.”

This could be the final season for hockey and gymnastics. The Board of Regents voted in September to eliminate them along with men’s and women’s Alpine skiing due to budget cuts unless those programs can raise two year worth of expenses by February 2021. There have been no discussions of allowing gymnastics and hockey to have another season due to the cancellation of this season, according to Myford.

“This is not the end of our program, unfortunately, it’s the end of this season,” said UAA head hockey coach Matt Curley Curley. “I’d like to use this now as an opportunity as a catalyst for our rallying efforts.”

Curley felt Friday’s announcement was disappointing but said it allows the program to focus on raising money to save their program. The fundraising group Save Seawolf Hockey announced it had passed $850,000 in donations and pledges as it works towards their $3 million to get the hockey team reinstated.

“This is pretty devastating for us,” said interim gymnastics head coach Marie-Sophie Boggasch. “With the season over it’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel because this potentially could be our last season."

Boggasch said the news of not having a season is still very fresh, and they’re reassessing how they will move forward. The UAA gymnastics team hopes to raise $150,000 by the end of November, and currently have a 50/50 split the pot raffle to help raise funds for their program through the Benton Bay Lions Club. For the gymnastics team to be reinstated, they need to raise $888,000 by February.

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