The end is here for the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers hockey program. According to a report in the Huntsville Times, the beleaguered Division 1 program will exist no longer as of the end of the 2011-12 season. The players were informed of the news on Sunday night by their coach, Chris Luongo, and an official meeting with interim college president Dr. Malcolm Portera
The writing has been on the wall for UAH for quite some time now. The only southern program in NCAA Division 1, the Chargers were left without a home when the College Hockey America conference disbanded in 2009. The Chargers became D1's lone independent school, and with an ongoing shakeup across the college hockey landscape, as well as the tough truth of geography, finding a new home has proven almost impossible.
On top of that, funding for the program has been in jeopardy for some time, and that's the official reasoning given by the school for cutting hockey from the balance sheet.
"In assessing ways we can balance and strengthen our overall athletic program, we are reviewing a series of recommendations that include additional emphasis on compliance and student advising, realignment of the ice hockey program and a total evaluation of our athletic facilities," he said.
"This report recommends, and I concur, that Charger ice hockey will best be served by returning to its roots as a club team," Portera said.
The Chargers have been a Division 1 program since 1999, when the Division 2 level was discontinued. UAH won two national titles at the D2 level, one in 1996 and one in 1998. They advanced to the Division 2 Frozen Four in 1995 and 1997 as well. As a D1 program, the Chargers were able to win the College Hockey America crown in both 2007 and 2010, thus advancing to the Division 1 NCAA Tournament.
The program will revert to club status for the 2012-13 season and beyond. Hockey at UAH began as a club sport in 1979.
Making the situation all the more awkward, Alabama-Huntsville will serve as the official host of the NCAA Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla. this upcoming spring. Perhaps that's the best way to say goodbye.