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.