MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) -- Robert Morris University says it is disbanding its NCAA Division I men's and women's ice hockey teams.
University officials say the move is part of a new strategy as they head into their 100th anniversary year.
In a news release, RMU says the moves are "intended to position the university to be amongst the most agile and professionally focused schools in the nation."
RMU says it will honor all scholarships that current student-athletes are on and will help assist those who wish to transfer.
RMU President Chris Howard said in a statement, "We are saddened for the student-athletes who will be unable to continue in their sport at Robert Morris University and are committed to assisting them during this difficult time. However, this is the best course of action to leverage our strategic assets and position us for future growth."
RMU Director of Athletics Chris King said in a statement, in part, "Today is a difficult day for RMU Athletics. The decision to discontinue the men's and women's hockey programs was not made lightly by the university. It doesn't detract from the history of our hockey programs, which found success on the ice and in the classroom."
Of eliminating the sport of hockey, RMU writes:
"The decision to discontinue the men's and women's ice hockey programs was made based on an analysis which included scholarships and operating costs, and the necessary investments to maintain and improve the current facility. The university also wanted to align our athletic offerings more closely with other similar nationally-ranked universities of our size."
The university says approximately 55 student-athletes and seven staff positions are impacted by the elimination of the program.
The Robert Morris hockey program has hosted the Frozen Four at PPG Paints Arena twice now, including the 2021 tournament just a few months ago.
The women's team also produced goaltender Brianne McLaughlin. She was brought on to Team USA's women's ice hockey team for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
The news led to former players speaking out and expressing their disappointment.
"Just disappointment overall, almost disgusted," said Dyllan Lubbesmeyer, a former RMU ice hockey player who just graduated.
"I am devastated for the coaches, staff, parents, friends, family, fans all of the people who helped get the program to where it is today. And for it to end like this, I have no words for it," said Anjelica Diffendal, a former RMU ice hockey player who graduated this spring.
"I was totally in shock, in disbelief," said Emilie Harley, another former RMU ice hockey player who graduated this spring.
Harley, Diffendal and Lubbesmeyer said transferring will be difficult.
"Especially during COVID, how athletes have an extra year of eligibility, the transfer portal has been blowing up," said Diffendal.
"It's put every one of my teammates way behind the eight-ball, as far as being able to get recruited to a new team. It's making them scramble," Lubbesmeyer said.
A petition is going around online to save the teams. The petition had more than 5,000 signatures as of Wednesday night.
The university says it will be adding the club sports of women's ice hockey, women's golf, men's rowing, and skating for the fall of 2021.
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