Alabama Huntsville has dropped its hockey program. The school made the official announcement on Friday afternoon and players were informed earlier on Friday.
“After a comprehensive review of UAH’s athletic offerings and the associated long-term budget implications, we have made the difficult decision to discontinue the men’s hockey, men’s tennis, and women’s tennis programs,” the school said in a statement. “The student-athletes associated with these programs have been outstanding representatives of the University in the classroom and on the field. We are making this decision now to allow our student-athletes in hockey, men’s and women’s tennis programs to have the opportunity to play at another institution if they choose to do so. Student-athletes who would like to join another institution’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. For student-athletes associated with these three programs who wish to complete their education at UAH, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of the students’ academic careers. “
UAH becomes the first school to cut men’s hockey in 12 years, dating back to Wayne State in 2008.
In an interview Friday evening with Justin Bradford of Penalty Box Radio, athletic director Smith indicated that the coronavirus situation was not necessarily the only factor contributing to the program’s demise, but certainly pushed it over the edge.
“Did the virus make it worse and maybe expedite the process, yes. But to blame it on just one thing I don’t think is fair,” Smith said to Bradford. “There’s more in there, in terms of what are we spending, what are spending relative to other things. Hockey is an expensive sport, and it has to be an expensive sport based on where we are. We have good coaches that work hard within their budget; they couldn’t have done things for much cheaper than what they did — they stayed within our parameters. But at the end of the day, we can’t function at that level, for what we needed to be competitive at Division I hockey.”
UAH was booted from the WCHA, along with Alaska and Alaska Anchorage, in a move made last summer by the other members of the WCHA.
“That’s handcuffed us pretty strongly,” Smith told Penalty Box Radio about the impending breakup of the WCHA. “The people we talked to through our consultants, it wasn’t leading to much of a home for us in the future. That definitely complicated, if not a driving force. That was a hurtful thing. That was one week into me being interim AD. I’ll have to write a book whenever I’m done with this.”
“We are deeply saddened by today’s news that Alabama Huntsville has eliminated its men’s ice hockey program,” WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said in a statement. “UAH has been a valued member of the WCHA since joining the league in 2013 and, as the first Division I hockey school in the Deep South, brought the sport to a previously untapped fan base for college hockey.
“We want to wish all the best to UAH head coach Mike Corbett, his assistant coaches, support staff and the Charger players affected by this decision and hope to see all of them at new schools in time for the 2020-21 season.”