UA System explores keeping both athletic programs under one accredited school

Keith Champagne, UAF Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs (pictured above) commented on the exploration of keeping the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks athletic programs despite combining into one accredited university. (Aaron Walling/KXDF)
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KXDF) The University of Alaska system faced many questions over the summer. Where will their funding come from? Which degree programs will be cut? Will be athletics be slashed all together?

The immediate future of the sports programs for both UAF and UAA received relief from UA President Jim Johnsen on August 2, announcing that both systems can operate as normal for the 2019-2020 season.

However, that is only meant for a one-year stop gap and did not provide any clarity for the future. For the past few months, the UA system, UAF Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Keith Champagne and the NCAA began a discussion of what to do. One of their solutions was following the Northern Vermont University model.

“What does that mean inter-collegiate athletics in Anchorage and Fairbanks,” said Keith Champagne about the NVU model. “We’ve had some conversations with the GNAC and the NCAA at the Division II level and we’ve been talking to people on the Division I level. There’s several models where they’ve allowed universities that have merged to a single accredited universities to one merged accredited university. To operate in the same places. They’re distinct full serviced athletic programs. For example Northern Vermont University is the result of a merge between Lyndon University and Johnson University. Where each place was allowed under one new University of Vermont to keep their athletic programs in place.”

In 2018, two college programs combined into the Northern Vermont University, with two different sports campuses with the Johnson Badgers and the Lyndon Hornets. That’s what the Nanooks and the Seawolves are looking at doing; one accredited University, but two different athletic programs.

“We are hoping we’re able to do that with the support of the president, the community and the Board of Regents,” said Champagne about their talks with the NCAA. “To allow the Seawolves to stay in place and the Nanooks to stay in place and we would compete with each other. The only thing we’ve heard from the NCAA is they want us to abide by all of their rules and to allow people if you are going to transfer from the Fairbanks location to the Anchorage location that adhere to the NCAA rules for transfer.”

On August 28, UA President Johnsen spoke at a public forum in Anchorage talking about the future of the University of Alaska, and what their strategies are going forward. One of the topics was athletics, and how they will present options in November.

“Of great importance to the student experience is athletics,” said UA President Jim Johnson at the public forum. “We’ve been working to develop options on athletics. We need to tell our student athletes, as well as all those who support our athletic programs, how we will go forward with the goal of maintaining and preserving our athletic programs where we have them.”

Currently, UAA is home to 11 sports programs, while UAF has 10 collegiate athletic teams.

The Board of Regents will hold telephonic public testimony from 4 – 6 p.m. on Sept. 9, to testify call 1-866-726-0757. In-person testimony will be held beginning at 8:15 a.m. during the full board meeting in Anchorage on Sept. 12.

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