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NMSU extends athletics debt

New Mexico State University is moving forward with a plan to give its athletics department an additional five years to pay off its debt rather than transferring funds from academics.

“It was a victory for shared governance. It was victory for the faculty voice and a prudent decision by regents,” said Christopher Brown, chair of the NMSU Faculty Senate.

The unanimous 5-0 vote by the Board of Regents to extend debt payments came during a packed meeting Tuesday where faculty members and students spoke out against a recommendation to take $1.1 million from the Instruction and General fund to bolster athletics programs.

The recommendation came from a six-member Athletic Review Committee created by regents to build on recent successes of the NMSU football and basketball teams. The priorities included more money for coaches and hiring staff to focus on marketing and long-term fundraising. NMSU has lost three basketball coaches in the past decade to other institutions.

Businessman and NMSU donor Mickey Clute presented the committee report during a work session before the public meeting and told regents it was important to act within 90 days to “capture lightning in a bottle.”

The committee recommendations provided an array of options to help boost athletics funding including forgiving the $4.1 million the athletic department owes the university or extending the debt payment deadline.

NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers, Associated Students of NMSU President Kevin Prieto and Vice President Emerson Morrow all opposed the academic fund transfer but supported the idea of giving athletics more time to pay off its debt.

Extending payments is expected to free up an additional $300,000 this fiscal year.

Athletic Director Mario Moccia is in Las Vegas, Nev., for the WAC basketball tournament and was not available for comment.

But following the regents’ vote, Moccia told ABC-7, a television station in El Paso, “We know we can’t pay a million dollars at New Mexico State but the reality is, we can do more than what we’re doing now.”