UAH to eliminate hockey program

The University of Alabama in Huntsville announced Friday the elimination of the hockey program after 41 seasons of competition.

The university cited budget restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic as a main factor in the decision.

“COVID-19 pandemic has forced the university to make difficult personnel and programmatic decisions,” according to the release, co-signed by UAH president Darren Dawson and athletic director Cade Smith. “Eliminating the expense of the hockey and tennis programs is a necessary step to ensure that UAH can continue meeting its core educational mission.”

The announcement comes rather sudden after the official UAH hockey Twitter feed revealed a six-player freshman signing class last week.

Men’s and women’s tennis will also be eliminated. The student-athletes for the cut programs were notified via email from UAH athletic director Cade Smith and video conferences with coaches and staff.

The program finishes its 35-year varsity history with a record of 456-570-82. The Chargers became a varsity program after six years a club team starting in 1979, winning the 1982, 1983, and 1984 national club championships.

The Chargers won two NCAA Division II national championships in 1996 and 1998.

UAH went back up to Division I shortly there after, winning two College Hockey America regular-season championships in 2001 and 2003. The Chargers won CHA tournament titles in 2007 and 2010, earning berths in the NCAA tournament.

It’s not the first time the program has been cut. In 2011, UAH announced the program would be relegated to club status, but a movement to raise funds and find a spot in the new WCHA in 2013 saved it.

However, UAH would reach no higher than seventh place in the seven years in the WCHA, with only three playoff appearances. The last season of 2019-20 was one of the worst in the program’s history. The Chargers went 2-26-6, tying the program mark for fewest wins.

This comes almost a year since the announcement that seven programs were leaving the WCHA to form their own league, which is now known as the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. That left UAH’s future uncertain and looking for a new conference when the WCHA breaks up after this season.

“We are deeply saddened by today’s news that Alabama Huntsville has eliminated its men’s ice hockey program,” WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson said in a statement. “UAH has been a valued member of the WCHA since joining the league in 2013 and, as the first Division I hockey school in the Deep South, brought the sport to a previously untapped fan base for college hockey.”

UAH’s primary target was to join those seven CCHA teams, but now they won’t be around to apply.

UAH dropping hockey is the latest in a number of cancellations of athletic programs across the nation during the pandemic. Among those affected was fellow WCHA school Bowling Green, which dropped baseball, and Gulf South Conference affiliate school Florida Tech, which dropped football.