University of North Dakota cuts women's ice hockey program

The Fighting Hawks have played their last season

Less than 24 hours after USA Hockey announced a series of steps to increase funding for girls’ and women’s hockey programs, the University of North Dakota has announced they will be cutting their women’s ice hockey program.

News began circulating about the cut early this afternoon, with the school officially publishing a release around 3:30 CST.

UND has had budget and fiscal problems in recent years, and in anticipation of losing state funding the school needed to cut $1.3 million from their athletic programs. The swimming and diving team was also dropped in addition to the hockey program.

Athletes will be allowed to keep their athletic scholarships, and all athletes have been given details on their specific aid.

What makes this troubling - beyond a top NCAA school dropping a competitive team - was the school leaking the news before informing the players and coaches. When news began circulating about the program’s demise, the team was on the ice preparing for the 2017-18 season. The school even had a recruit on an official visit that began at 12:30 PM CST.

Several alumni from UND have gone on to play in the Olympics including Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux of the USWNT. After the news leaked, both took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the university.

Current players Anna Kilponen and Emma Nuutinen are currently at the IIHF World Championships as part of the Finnish National Team, and Halli Krzyzaniak is there with Team Canada. The university has been one of the premiere schools in the country developing both domestic and international talent.

Brian Faison, the athletic director of UND, met with the team at 2:45 CST. Details of the meeting were not disclosed.

The WCHA also released a statement on UND’s decision to withdraw it’s program.

There’s some uncertainty as to how this cut will effect UND’s compliance with Title IX, the federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex by any education program receiving federal funding. There is no specific requirement that spending on men’s and women’s sports be the same, but it “requires that the same dollars be spent proportional to participation in scholarships.”

Aside from scholarships, there is also the matter of opportunity for male and female athletes. Schools must provide equal opportunity for students to participate in athletics, but this doesn’t extend to a requirement that the same sports be available for both men and women.

This announcement has sent a shock across the hockey world. The program has been in existence since 2002 and has appeared in two NCAA tournaments and produced multiple Olympians. They have consistently competed with Minnesota and Wisconsin and the rest of the powerhouses of the WCHA. This stunning turn of events has left many athletes, coaches, and fans upset, and has also left many questioning whether North Dakota really is the ‘hockey school’ it’s always claimed to be.