UAA student-athletes hit with a future of uncertainty

In light of the recent budget crisis affecting the University of Alaska, student-athletes at UAA are uncertain about their future with the Seawolves. 

While the UAA athletic department attracts and recruits many athletes from both out of state and out of the country, a small number actually come from Alaska.

With the affordability, the ease of being at home and close to family and the familiarness with academic programs and athletic teams, many athletes from Alaska decided to stay local after high school to pursue their collegiate careers. 

Specifically, the cross-country and track teams have 18 local athletes, men’s and women’s basketball have 11, volleyball has six, skiing has four, hockey has three and gymnastics has one local athlete. 

Now, with the budget crisis, 43 athletes are left wondering if they will be forced to leave their home state to pursue their academic or athletic goals elsewhere. While some students are cutting their potential losses early and leaving, others are staying optimistic.

Tobin Karlberg plays basketball for the Seawolf men’s basketball team. Image courtesy of the Seawolf men’s basketball team Twitter feed.

Tobin Karlberg, an Anchorage local, will be entering his sophomore year at UAA this fall. He previously graduated from Grace Christian High School in 2018. Karlberg was the 2017-18 Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year.

“I wanted to stay in town and play at UAA after high school because I saw the opportunity to play for my hometown as a very special and exciting one,” Karlberg said. 

Gymnast Ali Marvel will be leaving UAA due to uncertainty in decisions for UAA’s future. Photo courtesy of UAA Media.
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Similarly, former UAA gymnast Ali Marvel, from Wasilla, chose to stay close to home and compete for the Seawolves. However, last month, Marvel announced that she will be leaving UAA due to the uncertainty of her future at the school.

She explained that she is a sociology major, and despite having the Alaska Performance Scholarship and being a top-performer for the Seawolves, Marvel decided she can’t stay at the university if she may not be able to complete her degree. 

In a draft planning document released by UAA on July 23, the sociology program was one program listed “periphery” — meaning the first to go if need be. 

Karlberg, on the other hand, is staying optimistic and adaptable.

“I am currently a physical education major, but I am going to be switching to communications,” Karlberg said. 

Both degrees are listed as periphery.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about the future of UAA because of the budget issues as of late,” Karlberg said. “All I can say for now is that I am 100% committed to UAA still and hoping and praying for the best to come of all this.” 

In addition to academic considerations, the UA Board of Regents voted in favor of university consolidation on July 30, meaning the athletic departments of UAA and UAF will have to be combined, leaving a lot of uncertainty about the future of the teams. 

Despite the vote, UAA athletics spokesman Ian Marks confirmed that all 13 UAA teams will be competing in 2019-20. UAF Vice Chancellor Keith Champagne also confirmed that the ten UAF teams will still be competing in the upcoming season.