Saturday, September 12, 2009

Open Letter(s) to WCHA Athletic Directors

I've written and emailed the following letter to the Athletic Directors at each WCHA institution (UW's Barry Alvarez has no email address ... in their case I directed the letter to Justin Doherty -- Assistant Athletic Director for External Relations) . An issue that concerns me deeply is the ongoing subsidy that UAA supplies to WCHA teams traveling to Anchorage. Currently, UAA provides 12 airline tickets for each visiting conference member per series. It's not unfair to characterize that as about $6,000 per home series for UAA.

As I've mentioned many times over the summer with regard to conference realignment ideas, the NCAA created the "Alaska/Hawaii Exemption" to incentivize schools from outside to compete in Alaska. Each school has the ability to schedule additional home games as a result of this rule. In some cases, the potential amount of money the school could make is substantial. In other cases, not so much. Regardless, UAA is providing a subsidy that I believe it should not be providing. This letter is my first step in attempting to address this unfairness. There will be an ongoing effort on my part to see this subsidy eliminated. Future steps in this theme are "in development".
Dear (insert name here),

I’m writing today in the hope that I may enlist your support and share that with the readers of the UAA Hockey Fan Blog ( regarding an issue of basic fairness. No doubt you are familiar with the NCAA’s Alaska/Hawaii exemption.

Some 25 years or so ago, the NCAA recognized that schools in Alaska and Hawaii faced significant geographic challenges that hindered the fairest possible competition with schools in the contiguous 48 states. They introduced a measure granting game exemptions for any/all schools scheduling an away contest against an Alaska or Hawaii school.

The measure’s stated intention was to provide a financial recompense for schools like yours to recover the costs associated with travel to the 49th and 50th state. This rule has helped keep athletic programs afloat at NCAA institutions in these two states. Without such a rule, competing on home turf/court/ice outside of conference mandates would be virtually impossible for these distantly located schools.

My concern today is, that in addition to the potential revenue gains for your school (I conservatively estimate that amount at $xx,xxx per year for Xxxxxx), the University of Alaska Anchorage currently subsidizes 12 airline tickets for each WCHA member traveling to Anchorage to play hockey.

I hope that you can see this amount (roughly $6,000 per) can be defined as nothing other than largesse from UAA to your school. Since a mechanism already exists to more than adequately recover your travel costs then I call on you today to completely renounce this practice. In doing so you will be contributing to the NCAA’s stated goal of “fair play”.

With your permission I will post your reply to this plea in my blog. Best of luck with the 09/10 athletic season.
Most Sincerely,

Donald M. Dunlop
UAA Hockey Fan Blog
The email addresses for each are below should you have any thoughts regarding this issue that you'd like to share. I'll add here that my "potential revenue" numbers are derived by multiplying sold-out attendance by $15 per ticket for ONE additonal home game per year. The subsidy cost to UAA is also an estimate based on 12 commercial airline tickets at $500 per. It is somewhat relevant to note that a school like Michigan Tech has no where near the potential revenue enhancement as do the larger schools. But I do propose that in ALL cases (see how that word is bolded?) the amount of actual revenue more than repays the additional costs associated with being forced to travel to Alaska.

I honestly believe that this practice goes against basic fairness in any sense or definition of that word you can imagine. Fairness was rightly applied when the NCAA implemented the "Alaska/Hawaii Exemption" but requiring UAA (not to mention UAF in the CCHA) to provide additional recompense over and above is in many ways an affront to it.
Colorado College -- Ken Ralph --
University of Denver -- Peg Bradley-Doppes --
Michigan Tech -- Suzanne Sanregret --
Minnesota -- Joel Maturi --
Mankato -- Kevin Buisman --
UMD -- Bob Nielson --
UND -- Brian Faison --
SCSU -- Morris Kurtz --
UW -- Justin Doherty --
Unless otherwise requested, I will share any responses from this esteemed group of Athletic Directors in this comment section of this post as they arrive in my email. I look forward to all their responses.


Suze said...

Donald, that was a nice letter, well thought out. I hope Kevin Buisman supports this league wide, but it is my understanding that UAA does not subsidize Mankato, since they joined the league after UAA did.

Is this not correct?

Anonymous said...

Any one have any info on the meet and greet?

Anonymous said...

Meet and Greet is today, Sunday the 13th, at Cuddy Hall on Campus. 2-4pm

Suze said...

The 2009-10 Seawolf Hockey Meet and Greet picnic sponsored by the Seawolf Athletic Association will be held on Sept. 13 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on the UAA campus at Cuddy Hall.
Be sure to bring your memorabilia and autograph books to get signed by the players. The Seawolf hockey team and coaching staff will be on hand to mingle and answer questions.

Bring a side dish, salad or desert to add to the potluck. Hamburgers, hot dogs, all the fixings, sodas, water are provided courtesy of the Hockey Committee.

Anonymous said...

Hope a big turnout for the meet and greet.
Some indication of fan support.

Donald Dunlop said...

For a time that was true about Mankato. It isn't true any longer. Mankato was brought into the subsidy receiving fold by some sort of "evening out" process.

In other words, they were unfairly receiving nothing. The other schools took less from UAA so that Mankato could get something.

Copied From Ken Ralph Emailed Response said...

Ken Ralph from CC replied:

I am not sure if you realize this, but I am a proud UAA alum and a member of the Athletic Hall-of-Fame. I am very aware of the rules regarding travel to Alaska and it makes up part of our scheduling philosophy. I believe that every school that plays UAA in hockey consciously builds their schedule in a way to maximize the exemption rule. Its one of the reasons teams will go to the Nye or the Great Alaska Shootout as well. We actually are committed to go to a tourney in Fairbanks next year because the original 2010-11 schedule did not have us going to UAA and we wanted to maximize the exemption.

Something you need to keep in mind is the end-of-year playoff situation. The WCHA picks up all of the travel costs for teams in the playoffs. Since the playoff matchups at the end of a season are usually not determined until the final weekend of play, the league ends up having to buy plane tickets for their teams at the last minute. As you can imagine, the cost of tickets for UAA to fly to (or maybe someday soon for a team to have to fly to UAA), are extremely costly. The cost from those tickets comes out of the league revenue pool and every team in the conference takes a hit. For example, in 2008 when UAA came to CC, the team racked up $47k in travel costs. The average for the other first round series was $13.8k. An even more extreme example was in the CCHA this year when OSU had to go to Fairbanks for a playoff series and spent more than $80k in travel to get there. In years in which UAA reaches the Final Five, the costs are even higher.

There is a lot more complexity to this issue but I just wanted to bring up that last point for discussion. The most important thing is we have UAA in the league and it is the best league in college hockey.

Best wishes for a great season,


Donald Dunlop said...

My response:
Thanks for the swift reply and for explaining your history with UAA. It was something of which I should have been aware. WCHA's schools which choose to maximize their exemptions are definitely being smart. It is an important financial potential that goes above and beyond it's original conception of incentive and cost recovery. The extra home games are pure and simple sweet gravy. In fact, as a UAA fan I envy the other 9 schools for having access to it. UAA never plays 18 games at home and 14 on the road; it never plays 36 regular season games; WCHA fans assume the season is 36 games long. In Anchorage, we know it is 34. While the exemption doesn't cost UAA any revenue, it generates revenue for every other school.

Also thanks for bringing the playoff cost/profit sharing situation into the conversation. Rhetorically speaking, wouldn't those travel costs be essentially the same whether UAA travels to or hosts a playoff series? For example, when St. Cloud comes to Anchorage this season for the playoffs ... isn't the combined cost nearly the same as when UAA travels to St. Cloud? In either case, the cost is there because UAA is in the league. It's independent of whether the playoff is in Anchorage or one of the schools down there. I have to call that a wash.

I do appreciate that you mention the issue has additional complexities. I'm a bit of a simple fellow to whom it still seems that UAA is generously providing $6,000 per series to opponents that already have a substantial mechanism to recover the their travel costs. Your 47k example is quite telling. It's clear to me that UAA's inclusion in the league causes shared revenue to be decreased by a small percentage. In other words, every school gets 5K or 6K etc less revenue than they otherwise would receive since the cost/profit sharing model in the WCHA's case strongly favors the "profit" side.

Money never in ones pocket is all too often incorrectly construed as money out of ones pocket.

I'll have to disagree with your last sentence. The most important thing is that UAA gets treated fairly in whichever league it plays in. Being in the WCHA has some distinct advantages no doubt. But exciting high level hockey is not a WCHA-only domain and as we've seen over the past few years National Champions tend to come from a variety of leagues.

Thanks again for your response. When I composed the open letter I fully anticipated zero responses, so having this discussion with you exceeds my expectations.
Most Sincerely,

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the Meet & Greet, and talking with all the fans, coaching staff, etc.

Where were you Donald? We missed you.

Trevor Hunt had a cast on his right arm. I hope he is almost healed and will be ready to go for the first part of the season.

Donald Dunlop said...

I didn't know today was Sunday for long enough to make it impractical to go once I figured out that today wasn't Saturday.

Donald Dunlop said...

Give us some details ... be a cub reporter!

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