UAA athletes and coaches wrestle with uncertain future

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The University of Alaska Board of Regents declared financial exigency this week, which allows rapid downsizing by laying-off faculty and closing programs to operate in line with a state funding cut of 41 percent.

Where does that leave the University of Alaska Anchorage athletic department?

“We are not looking at cutting sports programs, they are on the table, and that’s something the regents will decide in September,” UA president Jim Johnsen told KTVF.

For coaches, players and everyone involved with athletics, it’s a ‘wait and see’ approach as Board of Regents explores restructuring the university system. Currently the UAA athletic department is dealing with hiring and travel freezes just weeks before fall sports like cross-country and volleyball are about to start.

“It’s been interesting to say the least,” said Women’s Head Basketball Coach Ryan McCarthy. “Everything has been on freeze, but we’ve seen some kids we like, we just can’t be too aggressive on how we are going to sell the program.”

For athletes like Anjoilyn Vreeland the concern is whether she’ll be able to afford her tuition. The junior volleyball player received an email in July that her Alaska Performance Scholarship was not in the budget.

“It’s definitely putting financial stress on me right now, especially for future semesters because I’m not sure how I’m going to afford school,” Vreeland said.

The Dimond High graduate said the scholarship covered about half of her tuition. The Alaska Performance Scholarship has three levels, and Vreeland was receiving a Level 2 scholarship, which awards students up to $3,566 per year to stay in Alaska. She earned the scholarship by meeting certain testing and grade point average requirements.

While Vreeland says head volleyball coach Chris Green is confident they’ll have a season, she’s concerned about her future.

“If our degree programs get cut, will going here be worth it?,” said Vreeland. “If we can’t obtain our degrees while playing here, especially the out of state girls they aren’t going to be able to continue to play here.”

Vreeland plans on suiting up this fall, but if the stability of the university doesn’t improve, she’s not sure if she’ll be able to stay.

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