UAA skiing and indoor track saved

Lauren Cuddihy is a member of the UAA track and field team.

Several weeks after the news was delivered to both the UAA men’s and women’s indoor track team as well as the Nordic and alpine skiing team, the original decision was denied by the Board of Regents.

In place of the significant budget difficulties the University of Alaska system has been experiencing, proposals to make cuts to the sports programs have been the first to be considered.

Announced over the past summer, UAA had a budget of approximately $10.36 million, with 42 percent of that budget being allocated to the University Athletic Department. Men’s and women’s indoor track and field receiving a maximum $125,000 and skiing receiving $600,000. Together only making up 17 percent of the athletic budget and only 7 percent of the entire university budget.

From an exterior view, it would be easy to say that the athletic department doesn’t need that extent of money and that a cut would be beneficial to the entire University system, but most people don’t see the inside of the entire athletic department and community.

With extensive hours of community service, home game revenue, on-average higher GPA’s and graduation rates, the athletic program has prospered in ways impacting more than just the university but the surrounding communities as well. In 2015 alone, the student-athletes of UAA accumulated a combined amount of 2,600 hours of community service — that’s nearly 108 days of volunteering. In addition, these athletes set a new 2015 record of a cumulative 3.24 GPA, 27 of these athletes scoring a perfect 4.0.

With many people pointing fingers and placing blame on these athletes, they don’t realize that a significant part of their life was being put on the line. Almost every sport in the UAA program has been scrutinized and questioned in the past months, putting pressure on the athletes, coaches and other personnel involved. Students travel far and wide from all over the globe to participate in sports here and if to have it threatened alone isn’t bad enough, many have received overall disapproval from members of the community.

On Oct. 27, when the news became official that skiing and indoor track would be the choices to eliminate, it only brought the athletic community closer together and stronger. These young college students rallied up with signs and support at home games and created petitions and videos asking for support online. They wrote letters to UA President Jim Johnsen and the Board of Regents.

Several weeks after the original news, the morning of Nov. 10 proved that all the hard work paid off. After an official response from the NCAA, Johnsen and the Board of Regents declared that no sports will be cut from the UA system.

The waiver, put into place by Johnsen, proposed to the NCAA to let UAA continue with the 4 cuts (men’s and women’s indoor track and skiing) bringing the total of sports down to 9. NCAA rules that a Division II institutions must have 10 sports, half of which must be women’s teams. On UAA’s specific case, the NCAA neither approved or denied the request until the school actually operated under 10 sports, opting for Johnsen to make the final call.

With the recent outpouring of support from both within the athletic department and the entire Anchorage community, UAA skiing and indoor track are officially saved.

Photo credit: Jian Bautista