October 24, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Alabama-Huntsville Program to End After This Season

CHN Staff Report

Alabama-Huntsville interim president Malcolm Portera will announce today that the school's men's hockey program will play this last season before being disbanded, according to reports.

UAH coach Chris Luongo informed the team of the situation Sunday night, according to the Huntsville Times. Players and coaches were to meet with Portera today at 10 a.m.

"I don't think it's possible to be blindsided by a meeting tomorrow morning, but I'd rather be the one doing the blindsiding than someone who's not there on their behalf," Luongo told the Times.

No men's hockey team that has ever won a national championship at any level has disbanded its program. The Chargers won national titles in 1996 and 1998 in Division II, before that categorization was discontinued.

UAH then went up to a Division I independent, before joining the fledgling College Hockey America in 1999-2000, along with other schools similarly looking for a home. However, that union turned out to be tenuous, as programs came and went, and eventually led to the dissolution of CHA after the 2009-10 season. The remaining schools at the time, Robert Morris, Niagara and Bemidji State all found other homes, except for Huntsville, leaving it as the long Division I independent when 2010-11 started.

The team made a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances while in CHA, in 2006-07 and 2009-10. The former was the last season of coaching for Doug Ross, who started the program in 1985-86.

Even as Huntsville continued to search for a conference — it was denied entry into the CCHA two years ago — talk began to swirl this year about funding being eliminated for the program. In July, the program's most well-known alumnus Jared Ross, sent an e-mail to fans and boosters saying that "the existence of the program is greatly threatened."

A private fund-raising drive was started by fellow hockey alum Nathan Bowen, and according to the Huntsville Times, he raised over $500,000 in pledges over a three-year period. Bowen said he was supposed to meet with Portera on Tuesday, but won't get a chance now with Monday's announcement.

"It's just been amazing that one person has this much power to end 33 years of tradition," Bowen told the Times. "And it really is coming down to just him. It makes no sense to me. ... He is completely disregarding the mayor, the people of Huntsville, the student council at UAH and 23 athletes that gave up opportunities to play at other places. He's completely disregarding those people and going back to his home in Tuscaloosa. To me, it's astounding."

A UAH spokesperson told the Times last week: "While we appreciate the voices of support for our Division I ice hockey program, as an institution of higher learning during these times of economic stress on education, we must place our greatest emphasis of taxpayer investment in the classroom and in our laboratories."

Portera is stepping down as interim president next Monday, and will be replaced by Robert Altenkirchen.

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