In a unanimous 6-0 vote, The University of New Mexico Board of Regents approved the Athletics Department recommendations for new revenue opportunities, expense cutting measures and a reduction in the number of varsity sports programs.
The proposal, a result of a Board directive in April to reduce a budget deficit, was a comprehensive effort designed to right-size the Athletics Department driven by to financial, Title IX and Mountain West conference alignment considerations.
The vote to reduce the number of UNM intercollegiate sports brings the number of sponsored sports down from 22 to 18. Those programs affected will compete in the upcoming 2018-19 academic year, which will be their final seasons of competition.
Men’s and women’s skiing, men’s soccer and beach volleyball are the four sports that will be discontinued effective July 1, 2019. UNM will honor the scholarships of the affected student-athletes through their graduation. Additionally, UNM will implement a roster management plan for men’s cross country, men’s indoor and outdoor track, and modification of the swimming and diving program, phasing out diving.
“This outcome weighs heavily on me, especially as I look out on all of you this morning,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes. “Our student-athletes are talented and dedicated young men and women. These are things over which we as leaders lose sleep, when we have to make such tough decisions. I know there is nothing I can say to you that makes this situation any better. Please do know this: our recommendation was made with great deliberation and with the sincere belief our very painful choices are what is needed for the long-term future success of athletics.”
“Any decision which negatively impacts a student-athlete is a difficult one, and the recommendation to President Stokes to discontinue four varsity sports was no different,” said Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez. “My team and I spent months collecting data, analyzing options and engaging with campus and community leaders on potential solutions that would not involve discontinuing any sports. The recommendation in our plan took into consideration the departments’ financial challenges, the requirement to adhere to federal Title IX gender equity standards and our alignment with the Mountain West conference.”
The affected sports are not sponsored by the Mountain West conference. Soccer has played in several conferences including the Border Conference, the WAC, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and most recently Conference USA. Skiing has been a part of the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association, while beach volleyball has been an independent over its four seasons.
According the Mountain West bylaws, under minimum sports sponsorship, “Each member institution shall field varsity teams in football, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, one women’s team sport and addition men’s and women’s sports as prescribed by the NCAA to maintain Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) membership.”
“We have to put our athletic department in a position to move forward with strength in every area and we have to find ways to continue to grow those budgets because we have to offer our student-athletes the support and the experience necessary to be competitive,” said Director of Athletics Eddie Nuñez. “Our efforts every day that I come to work will be to work tirelessly with the university administration and with whomever I can to try to find other opportunities to increase any kind of revenue stream that we can. Today is an unfortunate situation, but we will be in a position to right-size this department in the future.”
The reduction in sports marks the first such instance at UNM since 1999, when the department discontinued three men’s sports due to Title IX considerations. Those sports included gymnastics, wrestling and swimming and diving due to Title IX considerations.
UNM’s total of 18 NCAA sports marks the fewest for UNM since the merger of the NCAA and the AIAW (The Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) in 1983 put UNM’s complement of sport offerings at 24, and reflects a changing collegiate landscape within intercollegiate athletics.
“It is really one of the toughest things in the world to be a brand new leader at an institution to make such an unpopular decision,” said Stokes. “I will tell you that that's what leaders are required to do. Public higher education is really challenged across the country and if you have an institutional leader who's not willing to make unpopular decisions, you don't have an institutional leader that is running your institution the way it should be.”
For a copy of the report visit: UNM Athletics Analysis and Review.
For list of FAQs visit: UNM FAQs Regarding Athletics Recommendations.