The ski team at the University of Alaska Anchorage has raised enough money to, hopefully, save itself from elimination, says head coach Sparky Anderson.
“It was the best Christmas present the team could have ever had,” Anderson said.
The University of Alaska regents voted in September to cut costs by eliminating UAA’s alpine ski program, along with its hockey team and gymnastics team.
The sports would be eliminated in the summer of 2021. But, regents said, they’d consider reversing their decision if the teams could raise enough money by February to cover two years of their operating expenses.
Now, UAA skiing has done just that, bringing in $628,000 from across the country. The donations range from as little as $5 to as much as $50,000, Anderson said. The largest donation came from Ski Racing Media.
“It’s super humbling,” Anderson said. “I feel really fortunate to live in the community that we do, and locally and globally, it’s just amazing to feel that support.”
Still, Anderson said, it wasn’t easy and he hopes he doesn’t have to do it again.
“Literally, I have not thought about anything else for months,” he said. “It’s not been a very pleasant experience.”
Anderson has personally donated thousands of dollars to try to save his sport, and so have the coaches of the other two teams. It’s a lot of pressure knowing the programs could permanently disappear, said UAA Hockey Coach Matt Curley.
“You kind of go to bed thinking about it, you wake up thinking about it,” he said.
The gymnastics team, meanwhile, has raised roughly a quarter of its $888,000 goal, said Coach Marie-Sophie Boggasch. It’s been a stressful few months, she said.
“For us, I think one of the most unfortunate things that happened, on top of having to raise the money and being at the brink of elimination, is that our 2021 season also got canceled,” she said.
It got canceled because of the coronavirus, said Boggasch. She’s hoping it won’t be the team’s last season.
“These are opportunities I just can’t imagine losing,” she said.
UAA’s hockey team is also asking for donations online and holding several events, including a raffle.
UA regents are expected to weigh in on the fate of the three sports in late February, though Anderson is hoping he’ll hear about the future of skiing sooner.