On Aug. 19, the university announced it would eliminate the gymnastics, hockey and ski teams to save about $2.5 million a year. Cathy Sandeen, who was then the chancellor, said the decision was “devastating.”
Sparky Anderson, the ski coach, was on a father-daughter camping trip when he learned about the proposal to cut teams.
“It’s not going to work,” he thought to himself. “But it’s going to be a lot of work for me.”
‘Athletes set goals.’
One of the surest ways for college administrators to provoke an outcry is to eliminate sports. Iowa and Michigan State wound up in court. Brown became the target of a well-coordinated campaign that political strategists might have envied. Stanford, one of the most revered programs in all of college athletics, faced months of public and private pressure before it reversed its plan to eliminate 11 teams.
So less than four years after Anderson and others prevailed in another skirmish over athletic funding, a new wave of anger swept through Alaska. Sandeen, who had arrived in 2018, was the target of much of the grumbling.
“Immediately, the phones started ringing,” said Kathie Bethard, a former booster club president whose son played hockey at U.A.A. “Hockey is ingrained here. Skiing is ingrained here. My God, the two main winter sports and she’s cutting them? It was just like, ‘Are you kidding me? This is Alaska.’”
An athletic program with a national footprint, she continued, was what separated a university like Alaska Anchorage from a community college.
Like-minded people besieged regents with calls and emails. Sandeen, now the president of California State University, East Bay, recalled it was “fairly early” into the uprising that Alaska officials began looking for a way to salvage the sports.