Deep budget cuts force UND to cut three varsity sports, comment from WCHA

The University of North Dakota Athletics Department announced on Wednesday that it will discontinue its varsity women's hockey and men's and women's swimming and diving programs, effective at the end of the 2016-17 academic year as part of the University's ongoing budget restructuring efforts. The continuance of the men's golf program is contingent upon its successful fundraising efforts.

In January 2017, UND President Mark Kennedy announced that the athletics department would need to further reduce its 2017-18 budget by over $1.3 million as its contribution to the university-wide cuts being dictated by the state’s revenue shortfall.

Additionally, with UND’s move to the Summit League, additional money will be needed to comply with the Summit League’s minimum scholarship requirements. UND expects that the current changes will enable it to meet those additional scholarship expenses without having to make further cuts next year. UND’s athletics department expects to reinvest any additional savings back into its women’s and men’s teams, with a primary focus on gender equity, internal equity, and championship competitiveness.

The decision was reached based upon the University’s budget reduction instruction, conference sport sponsorship requirements for both the Big Sky Conference and Summit League, Title IX compliance, additional Summit League scholarship requirements, and the ability to reinvest in championship-level programs.

UND will honor all athletics scholarships for discontinued sports at their present equivalencies for returning student-athletes. Specific details have been provided to the student-athletes regarding their future aid.

UND Athletics Director Brian Faison met with the affected coaches, staff and student-athletes on Wednesday afternoon to inform them of the decision.

“This was a difficult decision. It’s a sad day when opportunities for student-athletes are reduced,” said Faison. “The University is going through campus-wide, state-mandated budget cuts. As a part of the University, we need to do what is in the long-term, best interests of the University, as well as the best interests of the athletics department.”

--- Below is a statement from Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Vice President and Women’s League Commissioner Katie Million regarding the decision of the University of North Dakota (UND) to eliminate its women’s hockey program, effective at the end of the 2016-17 academic year:

“Today’s developments are excruciatingly sad for the University of North Dakota, the WCHA and the sport of women’s hockey. While we understand the significant, state-mandated budget cuts faced by the entire University and respect the decision-making process of the UND administration, there is no denying the impact of losing a program that has produced Olympians, advanced to NCAA tournaments and is a perennial fixture in the national rankings. Our collective hearts ache for North Dakota’s current and incoming student-athletes, for the school’s alumnae and fans, for head coach Brian Idalski and his entire staff, and all involved with the program.

“The WCHA is the premier conference in women’s college hockey, and we are dedicated to ensuring it remains so – both now and well into the future. The WCHA League Office, along with our member institutions, will immediately begin the process of evaluating appropriate actions needed to remedy impacts of this decision on the 2017-18 season, while also exploring our long-term options.

“Finally, we want to thank each and every person involved with North Dakota women’s hockey from its inception in 2002 and, especially, beginning with the program’s inaugural WCHA season in 2004-05. Your efforts have had an indelible impact on our growth as a league, helping us thrive both on and off the ice. You will forever be part of the WCHA family.”