December 7, 2011 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Alabama-Huntsville To Continue Program?

CHN Staff Report

Following a meeting with supporters of Albama-Huntsville hockey, led by alumnus Nathan Bowen, the school released a statement seemingly reversing its course to disband the hockey program.

UAH has been playing this season under the assumption it would be its last, after outgoing president Malcolm Portera said in October that the athletic department budget could not sustain the program.

However, new president Robert Altenkirch promised a complete review of the athletic department budget, and agreed to meet with supporters tonight. Following that meeting, the school released a statement that, while falling short of a promise that the program would continue, indicated that the school was willing to work with supporters to find an avenue to keep Chargers hockey in Division I.

"Members of The University of Alabama in Huntsville administration met this evening with hockey supporters, following discussions with Chancellor Malcolm Portera, and came to a consensus to work closely together to pursue institutional and community support to continue UAH hockey at the Division I level," the school said in the statement.

"Several scenarios were discussed to ensure recurring support is in place, and the two groups will continue to meet in the coming days to finalize a workable plan."

According to the Huntsville Times, UAH spokesman Ray Garner said the school is not committing to anything beyond its statement. So the details remain unclear.

This week, Alabama state representative Phil Williams told College Hockey News that he's working on legislation that will split Huntsville — and the Birmingham campus, as well — out of the University of Alabama system. Wiliams said it was part of a plan that could lead to the revival of UAH hockey.

Tonight's news would seem to mitigate that need, although the legislation may still proceed for numerous other reasons than hockey.

If UAH continued playing in D-I beyond this season, it's unclear what that would mean for the likes of goaltender Clarke Saunders. Saunders recently committed to play for North Dakota next season. All Chargers players, if the team disbands, are free to go to other teams without the usual mandatory NCAA one-year waiting period. That would change, theoretically, if the program continued.

Alabama-Huntsville has struggled to keep the program alive since its conference, College Hockey America, disbanded two years ago, living it as the nation's only independent, not to mention, geographically remote from any other D-I hockey-playing school.

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