Late Friday, University of Alaska Fairbanks chancellor Dan White released a statement in response to the news from earlier in the day, that seven of the 10 WCHA schools planned to leave in two years, leaving three others behind.
White indicated that none of the three — Alaska, Alaska-Anchorage or Alabama-Huntsville — knew in advance of the plans by any of the other seven schools, “nor were we alerted to the preparation of such action. There are significant financial penalties for leaving the WCHA without advance notice. As such, each departing member has given two years’ notice. We will continue to play WCHA hockey with the same teams for the next two years.”
There has been concern that that the Alaska programs are already in danger of not being able to field teams because of financial issues. Both schools recently announced plans to move home games to small on-campus facilities, and away from downtown arenas that they don’t own. Those buildings are well short of WCHA minimum standards, but the schools have announced plans to upgrade them, pending funding.
Then, the day the “WCHA Seven” announced its plans to split off, Alaska governor Mike Dunleavy said that he was vetoing over $100 million in budget items marked for the Alaska university system, further imperiling athletic programs there. The vetoes are subject to overrides of three-fourths of the Alaska legislature.
That led to speculation the Alaska programs may have to shut it down sooner than later. But White said the programs are pushing forward.
“While the current configuration has had its advantages, UAF, the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alabama-Huntsville have been financially disadvantaged in this conference, and a realignment may benefit all three universities in the long run,” White said. “We are encouraged that there are a number of teams looking now, or will be looking soon, to join an NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey conference. While disappointed, in our WCHA colleagues’ decision to leave, we look forward to the chance that lies ahead for building new partnerships.”