Miracle on Alabama ice: UAH hockey team may remain Div. I

In October, we brought you the story of the University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey team and their battle against UAH System Chancellor and then-university president Malcolm Portera, who announced the Chargers would be dropped down to a club program after playing NCAA Div. I hockey since 1998.

Since then, community support and grassroots efforts continued in an effort to return the program to Div. I status.

On Tuesday night, those efforts paid off after a meeting between the Save UAH Hockey group and the school's new president, Robert Altenkirch. From Paul Gattis of The Huntsville Times:

Final plans are not yet in place, according to the UAH statement, but they are expected to be worked out in the coming days. The Save UAH Hockey group said it has received pledges to raise more than $500,000 to subsidize the hockey program.

The full text of the UAH statement:

"Members of The University of Alabama in Huntsville administration met this evening with hockey supporters, following discussions with Chancellor Malcolm Portera, and came to a consensus to work closely together to pursue institutional and community support to continue UAH hockey at the Division I level.

"Several scenarios were discussed to ensure recurring support is in place, and the two groups will continue to meet in the coming days to finalize a workable plan."

The team was dropped to club status due to financial issues according to Portera, who cited its $1.5 million price tag to play D-I. College Hockey News reported on Tuesday that "Altenkirch has completed a budget review of the entire UAH athletic department"; apparently, that sparked new hope for the hockey program.

Hockey's future at the school was in doubt after the initial decision. From Mark McCarter of the Huntsville Times in November:

Club hockey is college kids playing for fun, not for scholarship or glory. There's nothing wrong with that. There's a nice, welcomed purity to that. That doesn't placate those who are irate with Dr. Malcolm Portera and his decision to strip away an important piece of UAH's identity by eliminating its hockey program.

"A hockey program in the South, and the tentacles it has is unbelievable," [Tom Dailey, a former UAH player] said. "There are over 600 hockey alumni, and some of these guys are presidents and CEOs of large companies, and they all tie back to UAH."

How many are willing to step up with funding for a D-I program?