Dr. Altenkirch was certainly the leader of the effort to get UAH Hockey back on stable footing, but his right hand man was Dr. E. J. Brophy, our athletic director. After we talked to Bob, our next visit was with E. J. If you’ve never met him, you’re going to get a hearty handshake, an anecdote, and a good feeling about the leadership that he provides to the University. A standout catcher for UAB baseball, Dr. Brophy rose to AAA in the Phillies’ system before returning to his alma mater, getting his Ph.D., and heading advancement with the Blazers. He next became the AD at West Alabama before being named to replace the late Jim Harris here in Huntsville.
“[Getting accepted] seems real. The part where you had to pinch yourself to see if it was real was in January in Dallas,” Dr. Brophy said. “Until you get the invitation, you just really don’t know.”
After getting into a new league, Brophy then had to replace Kurt Kleinendorst as head coach, who returned to the professional ranks. Mike Corbett ended up being the hire. When asked what Coach Corbett brings to the program, Dr. Brophy said, “The first thing was that he didn’t have to get new towels. Anytime you start talking about the United States Air Force Academy, or any other military academy, you’re talking about phenomenal discipline. Those kids don’t even know the meaning of the word quit.”
Corbett was a great “get” for the Chargers. “He’s well known all over the country, and he was a finalist at Anchorage. Their loss is our gain, as they might have gotten him had they not made a change at the top of their athletic department.”
If you ask Dr. Brophy about his comparison for Coach Corbett, he’ll always say, “Mike to me is the Kirby Smart of college hockey. He was the top assistant in college hockey. Boy, he has brought so much energy here.”
All Charger fans want wins for the team, but Dr. Brophy has off-ice goals for the boys as well. “We want a quality human being who’s a quality student who’s a quality athlete. UAH is about having super people that are super students at our university,” he said. “Right now they’re doing that — the team GPA has been well above a 3.0, with a 3.2 this past year. Our entire department is above the UAH average as a whole.” If you’re a UAH student or alunnus, you know that’s not any easy feat.
No college athletic program can survive without help from its boosters. “Anybody that wants to give money to any program at UAH — engineering, hockey, the math department — we’d be happy to have it.” Dr. Brophy prides himself on being a builder. “This type of program is kinda my cup of tea,” he said of the Blue Line Club. “I ran the Blazer Club at UAB, and I ran the Tiger Club at West Alabama.
Some fans were a little surprised at the sudden jump to $1,000 for membership in the Blue Line Club. “We had several levels [at both UAB and UWA], and the $1000 level was always the most popular at those institutions. Here, after evaluating the Blue Line Club and seeing what direction we’re going with a new coach and a new attitude with everything on stable footing, it seemed like it was time. Giving is going very well.”
But if you don’t have $1,000 to give to the program, your contributions are still welcome. “We’d love to have people give whatever they want to give. And when we have Blue Line Club events like the luncheons, we want everyone to come.” Luncheons will happen every Friday of home weekends during the season, and we’ll have information for you each week as to how you can be a part of it.
“[Corporate sponsorship] is good,” he said. “Getting into the WCHA opened the gates of heaven. Any doubts in any recruit’s mind, in any fan’s mind, and in any sponsor’s mind are gone. We’re playing this fall — it’s real, it’s here.”
There was some — we believe manufactured — controversy this summer about scheduling conflicts between UAH and the Huntsville Havoc, but Dr. Brophy isn’t sure why. “Ever since I got to Huntsville, the VBC and Huntsville Havoc have done nothing but bend over backup to help the Chargers. We’ve never had a single disagreement — ever. I don’t know who is trying to manufacture this acrimony, but it’s not there.”
Fans of the whole athletic program know that it can be hard to get to see your Chargers on the court and the ice. “On the weekends, we seem to get just as good of crowds at basketball if we played at 3:00 as 5:00.” The University will de-conflict hockey and basketball this season. “We had talked about even before we got into the WCHA that we’d be playing basketball games on the weekend with the girls at 3 and the guys at 5. That’ll be different for UNA, of course.”
We asked Dr. Altenkirch about the role of athletics in the University’s ecosystem, so I wanted to ask Dr. Brophy the same thing. “Anytime you have a university, and you just have a university without athletics, it becomes a place to go to school and go home. That’s very important, but I don’t think that you have a well-rounded university without athletics. I feel like our athletic programs can, to some extent, be the front porch of our university. … I think that our University is important to Huntsville, and I think that we bring a small part of that impact — but an important one.”
Dr. Brophy’s message to the fans? “Come to our games. Buy season tickets. Give us some of your money.” We can’t say it any better than that.