The University of North Dakota Athletic Department will be cutting three varsity sports programs, including women's hockey and the men's and women's swimming and diving teams.
The programs will be cut at the end of the 2016-17 academic year as part of school-wide efforts to trim budgets because of an upcoming drop in state funding, a news release says.
“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 our women’s and men’s athletics programs,” UND President Mark Kennedy said in a news release. “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 they have represented UND.”
The athletics department needed to reduce its 2017-18 budget by more than $1.3 million, the release says.
During the 2015-16 school year, the women's hockey team accumulated $544,314 in operating expenses, while the men's and women's swimming and diving teams' operating expenses were $256,928 combined, according to figures reported to the federal government.
The UND women's hockey program has been around since 2002, competing at the Division 1 level. At the last winter Olympics in 2014, UND sent eight players.
After dominating the Division II level, the men's and women's swimming and diving teams moved up to Division 1. The program has won 10 individual national titles and 15 championships.
Last April, the school also eliminated baseball and men's golf as part of state-mandated university-wide budget cuts.
UND says all scholarships for student-athletes of these discontinued sports will be honored.
After the news broke, Western Collegiate Hockey Association Vice President Katie Million released a statement, calling today an "excruciatingly sad" day for UND, the WCHA and the sport of women's hockey.
"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," Million said.