The University of Alabama-Huntsville’s interim president Malcolm Portera announced today that following the 2011-12 hockey season, the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers will cease to exist as a Division I college hockey program. This announcement means that there will no longer be a Division I college hockey program south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The announcement officially ends 33 years of NCAA college hockey history for UAH. No other program that’s ever won an NCAA title has disbanded. The Chargers won two D-II titles in 1996 and 1998.
According to USCHO, UAH Chargers head coach Chris Luongo informed his team of the president’s decision on Sunday night.
There are many factors that have led to this decision; one major factor is that UAH doesn’t have a conference to call home. After the 2008-09 season, College Hockey America disbanded and the UAH Chargers were left without a conference.
The Chargers applied for membership in the CCHA during 2009. But on August 11, 2009, the Chargers were informed that their bid for membership to the CCHA was denied. Without a conference to call home, the Chargers have had to play as a Division I independent, which put their program in further jeopardy. It’s very hard to get teams to travel to Huntsville to play hockey if they are not in a conference.
The Chargers also don’t have a building of their own’ they share the Von Braun Center with the Huntsville Havoc of the SPHL and are not the primary tenet, meaning the Chargers have had to play their games at odd times, which further complicates things for the Chargers.
Here is part of the official announcement from UAH interim president Malcolm Portera.
I want to share with you a decision that has been made following months of careful study. As a result of a financial analysis of our athletic program, and numerous conversations I have had with athletic directors, university presidents and commissioners of Division I ice hockey programs, it has become obvious that, for the best interest of this university, our athletic department and the ice hockey program, we move the team from the Division I level back to its original classification as a club sport at the end of the 2011-2012 season.
In conclusion, this is a sad day for college hockey and for the Alabama-Huntsville hockey team and its fans. This story makes me physically sick to my stomach that in one swoop of a pen, a college administrator can kill a college hockey program with a rich hockey history.