One step forward, two steps back

Brian Idalski is the head coach of the UND womens hockey program, which was eliminated as part of a 1.3 million budget cut for the Athletics department. File photo.

Nick Nelson

Brian Idalski is the head coach of the UND women’s hockey program, which was eliminated as part of a 1.3 million budget cut for the Athletics department. File photo.

Allyson Bento, Sports Editor

In a large sunlit room, there was nothing bright about the mood as people walked into the Gorecki Alumni Center with somber faces and heavy hearts. Standing behind the podium, UND Athletic Director Brian Faison announced that the university would be cutting the men’s and women’s swim and dive program and the women’s hockey program.

Students, staff, faculty and fans of UND sports programs cannot help but feel a sense of déjà vu as the university was in the same spot last year, when they bid farewell to the baseball and golf program.

The cuts are a result of an earlier announcement from UND President Mark Kennedy, that revealed the athletic department would need to reduce their budget by over $1.3 million to help lessen the deficit that the university needs to cover due to the state’s revenue shortfall.

“This was a difficult decision,” Faison said. “It’s a sad day when opportunities for student athletes are reduced. 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 athletic department.”

Nick Nelson
UND athletic director Brian Faison addresses media during a press conference announcing the elimination of women’s hockey and swimming and diving programs at the Gorecki Alumni Center on Wednesday afternoon. Nick Nelson/ Dakota Student

Adding insult to injury, news of the women’s hockey program cut was announced prior to the notification of the staff and players on the team, who were on the ice practicing at the time of the leak.

UND women’s hockey alumna and USA Olympian Monique Lamoureux-Morando tweeted out “Glad to see (UND Athletics) leaks publicly they are cutting a team before informing the players and staff. #classymove.”

Lamoureux-Morando and her sister recently spearheaded a boycott from USA hockey in order to strike a deal for greater pay and compensation for the players in the program. An agreement was reached earlier this week and USA will participate in the World’s competition.

Once the news hit social media, many took to their accounts to speak their minds about just how they felt about the recent cut of the hockey program.

Many felt dumbfounded and speechless while some were enraged by the news, noting that UND currently has eight current alum’s who are representing multiple countries on the world stage and were not given the respect they deserve by finding out about the cut through social media.

Other program coaches, staff and athletes in the WCHA,  expressed their sympathies after the announcement of the elimination of the women’s hockey program.

“Today’s developments are excruciatingly sad for the University of North Dakota, the WCHA and the sport of women’s hockey,” WCHA Vice President and Women’s League Commissioner Katie Million wrote in a statement released shortly after the press conference.  “While we understand the significance, the 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 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.” 

News of the swim and diving program being cut was kept under wraps, until the press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“I have accepted the athletic director’s recommendation with the understanding that it provides for investing in championship teams in a balanced manner for both women’s and men’s athletic programs,” Kennedy said. “This is a painful step to take for all parties involved, including me, but it is necessary given today’s budget realities. My heart goes out to all those who are disrupted by this change. We are proud of the way we have represented UND.”

With the cuts announced, the athletic programs will re-balance the representation of male and female athletics, after last year’s cut of the baseball program.

The student athletes in the programs affected will have to decide whether they would like to stay at UND and transition into a normal students, and UND will honor all athletic scholarships for those who do not choose to transfer to another program or whether they dig up their UND roots and live out the rest of their college athletic career representing another university.

Allyson Bento is the sports editor for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]