University of Alaska takes sports off the budget chopping block

The University of Alaska has decided not to cut six sports teams. UA President Jim Johnsen rescinded an earlier cost saving recommendation that men’s and women’s ski teams at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and ski and indoor track programs at the University of Alaska Anchorage be eliminated.

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Cutting the teams would have saved a projected $1.1 million, but would have dropped both UAF and UAA below the NCAA 10 team minimum. Both schools had requested waivers from the ten team requirement. University President Jim Johnsen told the Board of Regents, meeting in Fairbanks on Nov. 11 that the NCAA had  informed the schools it declined to rule on their waiver requests.

”They said basically, ‘If you wanna go below ten teams, go for it. Then ask for permission after the fact,'” Johnsen said. “In my view however, this approach contains way too much risk — financial risk, but more importantly, potential sanctions to both of our entire athletic programs.”

The university also will not pursue an alternative waiver-dependent proposal to merge UAF and UAA athletic programs as a way to drop below the NCAA team minimum for each school. Johnsen told regents he’s no longer recommending cutting sports at all.

“And I think that change of mind is supported by the impressive outpouring of support by the athletics community in general and by the Nordic ski community in particular,” Johnsen said.

Johnsen said he’s instead recommending regents work with communities to increase private funding for sports programs.

Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.

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