Just a little over a month ago UAA announced the dismissal of former hockey coach Dave Shyiak. Now, after a vote of no confidence from both the UAA Hockey Alumni Association and the Alaska State Hockey Association, UAA’s Athletic Director Steve Cobb has been let go as well. This came shortly after a letter from Governor Sean Parnell expressed his dissatisfaction with how UAA has been handling the recruitment of a new hockey coach, and recent allegations of player abuse.
Tim McDiffett, UAA’s senior associate athletic director, will replace Cobb until the selection process for potential candidates can be completed.
Cobb has been with UAA for over 12 seasons and has received many accomplishments and is even credited with creating the phrase “It’s a good day to be a Seawolf.” However the recent issues with the alleged player abuse by Shyiak among other things have led to community outcry for his dismissal. Mike Dingman, an Anchorage community member went so far as to create a Facebook page entitled “Fire Steve Cobb!” and described details of his discontent with Cobb’s leadership.
“The NCAA was not a big fan of this tradition, and instead of fighting on behalf of the students and the community to preserve this long standing tradition, our athletic director, Dr. Steve Cobb, buckled to the desires of the NCAA,” said Dingman. “The University has further alienated their fan base by raising the cost of a companion ticket. When you cannot even fill half of the seats in the Sullivan Arena, the last thing you should be doing is aggravating the small base of fans that you actually do have.”
The initial dismissal was revealed in a press release sent out on May 29 that stated a message from Chancellor Tom Case, “Dr. Cobb’s legacy at UAA includes a number of remarkable achievements of which we are all proud,” said Chancellor Tom Case. “However, it has become clear in recent days that despite his efforts, Steve will not be able to bring all elements of the public together in support of UAA, and that criticism of Steve has become a distraction from the great work that UAA does every day. Though it’s necessary for us to move ahead under new leadership in Seawolf Athletics, Dr. Cobb’s outstanding contributions to our student-athletes, the community and to Seawolf Nation have been unprecedented.”
Cobb was not one to take it in stride and lashed out against the decision and those he believed responsible. This includes Ashley Reed a lobbyist and political consultant in Anchorage who has connections with Governor Parnell.
“Patrick Gamble may be mentally ill,” Cobb said in the statement, “when you give away the university to Ashley Reed and a few local scoundrels, you are by definition insane and I intend to prove it in court. … Gamble made the decision to fire me without speaking to one employee of the UAA Athletic Department, not one staff member, not one coach, not one student-athlete and certainly not me. Apparently Ashley Reed is the final authority. … I am suffering secondary embarrassment for the university that I loved and devoted almost thirteen years of my life.”
Reed was not available for comment to these allegations.
The controversy sparked even further during the Board of Regents meeting on Wednesday June 5, where there was discussion about the questionable handling of the entire situation. Chancellor Case answered questions and addressed comments raised during the meeting.
“This unraveled so quickly that I’m not sure communication was the key,” he said. “We were communicating what we were doing; there were just those who did not like what we were doing.”
Despite the quick change in leadership and ensuing murmurs of discontent, UAA is working hard to get the athletic department back on track, including resuming open forums for potential hockey coaches.
With two years left until the sports complex’s anticipated completion, UAA has a little time to choose an official new leader for the athletic department.