Just one week after the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) announced that its men’s hockey team would be discontinued, UAH on Friday confirmed the program has been saved by supporters.
The university last Friday had listed financial shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for cutting the popular program.
Following that announcement, a GoFundMe was launched on Monday evening in an effort to raise $500,000 by close-of-business on Friday. That ambitious goal was reached shortly after noon on Friday, with hours to spare.
In addition to these crowdfunded donations, UAH in a statement advised that two long time hockey supporters, Taso Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski, have each gifted $125,000 to support the program.
In a statement to Yellowhammer News, UAH Athletic Director Cade Smith confirmed that these funds, combined with the crowdsourced funds, will enable the program to continue for the duration of the 2020-2021 season. The total amount of almost $800,000 in private dollars is the largest athletic campaign contribution in the history of UAH.
In addition to the private funds, UAH President Darren Dawson has committed dollars from the university to cover the balance of the hockey team’s operations during the upcoming season. The program will continue to compete in Division I.
Moving forward, supporters of the program will still need to secure long-term funding and competitive stability.
“We are thankful and gratified from the loyal support that has been demonstrated this week by the fans and alumni of Charger hockey,” stated Dawson. “We are hopeful that this support will translate into a sustainable funding model that will allow the UAH hockey program to rise again to high levels of success.”
Smith said, “The university is fully committed to the upcoming season. The university will work with the supporters of the UAH hockey program and a newly formed Hockey Advisory Board to develop a plan that will allow the Chargers to thrive in 2021-2022 season and beyond.”
One key obstacle moving forward besides funding will be UAH Hockey finding a new conference, as their current conference is disbanding following this upcoming season.
Smith stressed that “UAH is committed to building a world-class D1 hockey program with a permanent conference home that will allow the Chargers to continue past the 2020-2021 season.”
To continue beyond the current season, UAH said that the Chargers must develop a five-year philanthropic funding model and resolve the associated conference-related issues.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn