By Lethbridge Herald on April 29, 2020.
University of Lethbridge release:
The University of Lethbridge is establishing a committee consisting of donors, alumni and University representatives to determine the feasibility of future Pronghorns hockey programs.
The committee’s goal is to seek a solution that would allow the University to apply for reinstatement to USPORTS in the coming years by exploring examples of athletic programs at universities that have found success through community-based funding models. USPORTS rules dictate that universities discontinuing participation in their league must wait two years before applying for reinstatement.
The committee will be led by U of L alumnus, and retired entrepreneur and oilfield company executive, Dan Laplante (BMgt ’88). Laplante has also been a major donor to the Pronghorns hockey programs.
“Dan is a longtime supporter of the Pronghorns hockey programs and of the University in general,” says University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor Mike Mahon. “His business expertise, philanthropic experience and passion for University athletics make him ideal for this role.”
Last week, the University of Lethbridge announced the discontinuation of the Pronghorns men’s and women’s hockey programs in response to historic budget cuts. Since last fall, the U of L has eliminated over 60 positions and, with two more signaled cuts to its provincial operating budget in 2021-22 and 2022-23, the U of L will be required to make further significant reductions.
The U of L has undertaken past reviews of Pronghorn Athletics, focusing on program sustainability. The 2015 (and again in 2019) review of Pronghorn Athletics identified significant concerns about the sustainability of the institution’s athletic programs. In an effort to stabilize the funding situation in 2015 and allow time to source external revenues, the University committed an additional $400,000 per year for three years and $350,000 in the fourth year (for a total investment of $1.55 million). Unfortunately, over that time, support for operations has not materialized.
Regardless of past reviews, U of L President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon says the conversations he has had with donors and alumni over the past week make it clear the Pronghorns hockey community would like to explore the possibility of hockey returning to the U of L in the future.
“The resolve of many people I have talked with is strong,” says Mahon. “Recognizing this, the University will explore with the community the possibility of hockey programs returning to the University in the coming years — supported by a community-based funding model.”
In the coming weeks, the U of L will announce the balance of the membership of this committee as well as its terms of reference.
Laplante says the history of Pronghorns hockey is a source of pride for many individuals in southern Alberta and that he is hopeful the committee, working with the community and the U of L, will be able to find a way forward.
“Pronghorn Athletics are a key connector of the University and the broader community and they are critical in building future leaders. It is my intent that the work of this committee be thorough and expeditious in determining next steps toward the goal of reinstating Pronghorns hockey,” says Laplante.
Mahon says the funding required to maintain hockey programs is significant and not implementing the decision to discontinue the hockey programs would mean additional layoffs for the institution — beyond those that have occurred so far and those expected in the future.
“It would be an understatement to say it is a challenging time for our University,” says Mahon. “The conversations I have had with many individuals over the past week prove to me that our community cares deeply about the presence of our university and the activities with which we are involved. I am heartened by this. The relationship between the University and the community has been a foundation of our success for more than half a century and will continue to be so into the future.”
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