The University of North Dakota is shutting down its women’s hockey program as part of university-wide budget cuts and athletic department restructuring.
North Dakota’s program often sent players to Olympic teams and was a Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival of the Gophers.
A statement from UND, which is also cutting men’s and women’s swimming and diving and labeled its men’s golf program’s future “contingent upon fundraising,” said “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.”
School President Mark Kennedy wrote in a statement that he accepted the plan “with the understanding that it provides for investing in championship teams in a balanced manner for both our women’s and men’s athletics programs.”
“My heart goes out to all those who are disrupted by this change,” he added. “We are proud of the way they have represented UND.”
The affected student-athletes can keep their scholarships, the school said. “It’s a sad day when opportunities for student-athletes are reduced,” athletic director Brian Faison wrote.
Gophers women’s hockey coach Brad Frost tweeted: “This is heartbreaking news and a sad day for Women’s Hockey.”
“Today’s developments are excruciatingly sad for the University of North Dakota, the WCHA and the sport of women’s hockey,” WCHA Women’s Commissioner Katie Million said in a statement. “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.”
Million said the WCHA, now with seven teams, will evaluate options for next season and the future.