When Wayne State plays UAA at the Nye Frontier Hockey Classic, take a good look. Their first game together is also their last.
On Sept. 29 the Wayne State Hockey program was officially discontinued. A $20 million deficit in the state of Michigan caused the university to discontinue sponsorship of its men’s program at the completion of the current school year.
Wayne State head coach Bill Wilkerson said he is disappointed that the school chose to discontinue the eight-year-old program.
“We’re not real pleased,” Wilkerson said.
Men’s hockey is the only Division I sport out of the school’s 17. Being a Division I program means that it is more expensive to run, and it was the first of many budget cuts.
The program had no idea that it was being cut until the announcement was made last week.
“It was a tough blow,” said assistant Sports Information director Tom Gorman, “but they’ve had a few days to get over it.”
Wilkerson said that all players wishing to transfer to another school will be given contract releases. Any players wishing to stay at Wayne State will continue receiving their scholarships as long as they maintain academic eligibility.
Wilkerson said that the players most impacted by the cut are the junior class members. All seniors will be able to finish out their season and decided to go pro or not. The underclassmen will be able to transfer to other schools and still have several years of eligibility. Juniors, with only one remaining year of eligibility, will have a harder time finding a place to play.
Gorman said the athletic department will do everything it can to make sure the athletes find a place to play.
“The players can showcase themselves,” Gorman said. “We hope to turn it into a positive.”
Regardless of the blow, the young team (15 of the 28-man squad are freshmen) is excited to head to Alaska to participate in the Classic.
“We have no expectations,” Wilkerson said. “We just hope to play as well as we can.”