Monday, October 24, 2011

Sad day for hockey

The University of Alabama-Huntsville today announced that it will be dropping Division I hockey at the end of this season and relegating the sport to club status. It's a sad day for a once-great Division II program that struggled to find permanency in the Division I ranks.

Coach Chris Luongo broke the news to his team on Sunday night, and on Monday the university's interim president, Malcolm Portera, said the main reason for the move is financial. You can read Portera's memo here.

Huntsville has been operating an independent program since the breakup of College Hockey America. While other surviving schools in that conference found places to land (Bemidji State in the WCHA, for example), UAH did not. It was even rejected by the CCHA for membership.

This summer, as college hockey realigned itself for 2013-14 with two new conferences and a merger of sorts between the remaining WCHA and CCHA teams, some college hockey followers implored the WCHA to bring Huntsville into its restructured conference.

I'm not sure how far those talks went, if they went anyplace at all. Portera's memo says the school had discussions with other athletic directors, presidents and commissioners. But if the commitment wasn't there from the UAH powers that be, it's hard to think the WCHA or anyone else in college hockey could have saved the program.

It's too bad. Not only will this leave college hockey with one less program — 57 — but it means the end of program that did some interesting things in its history. The Chargers won two Division II titles in the 1990s and was runner-up twice, playing Bemidji State in all of those games. Huntsville also made the Division I tournament twice as the CHA tournament champion.

Huntsville will play Minnesota State for the last time on Dec. 9-10 in Mankato.

6 comments:

BIGhkyfan said...

They can thank all the EGO teams who jumped to the new league. Hope those programs have a feeling of satisfaction knowing what they caused...

BIGhkyfan said...

WE need to pack the house for this series as those boys from Huntsville deserve better!!!
It's time that someone accepts their responsibility and starts doing a better job selling MAVS hockey as I have seen a continuing decline of attendance these past 5 + years.
Or have these same "leaders" at MSU thrown in the towel because of the new hockey leagues? Sure makes you wonder!
Actions speak louder than words. So what does it mean when neither is happening?
I hate to think that we will be soon having to drive to the cities for D1 hockey. If MSU does not pick it up, we could be the next Alabama-Huntsville...

Sam said...

BIGhkyfan,

I couldn't have said it better myself. When I read about the official demise of UAH, I couldn't help but think about the state of the MSU hockey program.

The officials at the university seem hell bent on keeping that school at a mediocre D2 level. MSU Athletics are more or less unknown, outside of Minnesota and a couple of surrounding states, as a result.

The hockey team is the one program that MSU should be able to hang it's hat on. It competes at the highest level of college athletics, and has been able to send a decent collection of players onto the professional ranks. Home games at the Verizon Wireless Center even offer the Mankato community the chance to attend an exciting sporting event with a bit of a professional feel to it.

College hockey may not receive a ton of attention across the country, but it certainly does in the northern states, and any D1 sport is more visible than D2 or D3.

I've seen what you've seen in recent years. The University does not promote the team like they should, and they certainly don't invest much in it. It's an awfully slippery slope.

The attendance at games has been dropping off noticeably in the past few years. If administration doesn't put a little effort into supporting, promoting, and investing in the program, MSU and its supporters will soon have ZERO D1 athletic programs to be proud of.

hockeyfan said...

I had two interesting conversations about this the last month. One was with a big contributer to the blue line club and one was with an ex player from last year. Background is that when the school wanted to go D1 the state and school said there was no money. So the backers of the team (in effect the blue line club) said they would raise the money. Money is for scholorships and expenses. So school and state put no money in program. According to the donor it is the only sport on campus that pays for itself and in fact gives any remaining balance of funds at the end of the year to the school. Which it does every year. The donor and the ex player both in two different conversations on two different days put the blame for not promoting the team on the athletic director.That is crazy if in fact the team is giving them money and is the only profitable team. You would think they would promote the heck out of it. Bottom line is though even without the schools support winning will take care of fans in the stands. I agree with both of you it is really bad promotion of a team.

Last Year said...

hip done star year

BIGhkyfan said...

I know that winning cures a lot of things. However, we can not look past how these young men commit and give four years of their lives to MSU and the hockey program. Of course they benefit with an education and assistance in covering those costs, yet we can not overlook the fact that MSU does a horrible job marketing the mens D1 program. Coupled with the less than exciting atmosphere in the Verizon Center. It takes the proper people (not the old boys club) to make this program something fans, students and MSU staff can be proud of. Right now, it is a D2 at best program playing in a D1 league. If the Athletic Department and coaches are content with their 6 figure incomes, we should feel for those players who give it their all, only to be viewed as the "bottom of the barrel" by other programs around the league. Surely the Blue-line Club cares enough to step in?