After many months of uncertainty, the word finally came down today via CollegeHockeyNews.com that the University of Alabama-Huntsville will disband their Division I hockey program, ending a tradition extending back 32 years.
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.
The program, which began in 1979, had been left searching for a conference home ever since getting frozen out of the CCHA a couple years ago. For a long time they were affiliated with, but not full members of the CCHA - during my days at Michigan in the 90's, they used to come up and play weekend sets against the Wolverines and other CCHA teams.
Last season the Chargers played as an independent, and have struggled to find a new conference as realignment has stirred up the college hockey scene tremendously this year. The WCHA, for example, is taking in former CCHA schools, as the formation of a Big Ten Hockey Conference offers the chance for big schools to raise the sports' visibility, but perhaps at the expense of smaller programs getting left behind.
A grassroots effort to raise awareness for the Chargers' plight was waged, and pledges of financial support made, but it was apparently not enough to sway the University administration. From a post at SaveUAHHockey yesterday:
Sources close to the Alabama-Huntsville hockey program have indicated that interim UAH president and UA System Chancelor Malcom Potera will pull the plug on Division I hockey discontinuing the Chargers only sport with an NCAA championship. The program will complete the 2011-12 season.
Portera is believed to be making the move solely based upon financial numbers, but SaveUAHHockey.com has learned that solutions to those concerns were brought before Portera and dismissed.
The Chargers will come up to Nashville on December 2nd & 3rd to play a pair of games against Nebraska-Omaha at Bridgestone Arena. Blake Geoffrion's two younger brothers Brice and Sebastian both play for UAH. While neither have any points in 8 games so far, Sebastian, a junior, does lead the way with 24 penalty minutes.