HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Alabama-Huntsville is dropping men’s hockey and men’s and women’s tennis as part of budget cuts in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

School officials said athletes in those sports who want to join another team’s roster will be released without penalty and free to transfer immediately. If they choose to stay, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of their academic careers.

Alabama-Huntsville was one of the only southern schools to have a men’s hockey varsity program. The Chargers won Division II national titles in 1996 and 1998 and were Division II runners-up in 1994 and 1997 before making the move to the Division I level for the 1998-99 season.

Alabama Huntsville joined the WCHA starting with the 2013-14 season. Men’s hockey had been the lone Division I sport for Alabama-Huntsville. It competes at the Division II level in all other sports.

"We are deeply saddened by today's news that Alabama Huntsville has eliminated its men's ice hockey program,” WCHA commissioner Bil Robertson said in a statement Friday. “UAH has been a valued member of the WCHA since joining the league in 2013 and, as the first Division I hockey school in the Deep South, brought the sport to a previously untapped fan base for college hockey.

"We want to wish all the best to UAH head coach Mike Corbett, his assistant coaches, support staff and the Charger players affected by this decision and hope to see all of them at new schools in time for the 2020-21 season.”

UAH’s departure leaves the WCHA with nine teams for this upcoming 2020-21 season. This upcoming season, Alabama-Huntsville was scheduled to play four games against Lake Superior State — Jan. 1 and 2 at Taffy Abel Arena, and Feb. 12-13 at Huntsville.

Last season, the Lakers played to a 0-0 tie (shootout win) against Alabama-Huntsville at Taffy Abel Arena this past Feb. 14, and beat the Chargers 4-1 at GFL Memorial Gardens on Feb. 15 in Sault, Ont.