Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
The University of New Mexico on Thursday released a 38-page Title IX assessment indicating the school’s financially strapped athletic department likely will need to eliminate some sports to reach federal guidelines for gender equality.
The report comes as UNM wrestles with how to deal with a multimillion-dollar deficit that already has officials weighing which sports to cut.
The Title IX report, compiled by the independent firm Helen Grant Consulting at a cost of $6,000, says Lobo sports are disproportionately favoring males over females. The last such assessment was completed in 2008.
“UNM does not offer participation opportunities in substantial proportionality to the undergraduate enrollment rate and does not comply with Test 1 – Proportionality,” the report stated.
Non-compliance could eventually lead to federal investigations and/or a cut in federal funding for a university.
UNM’s 2016-17 undergraduate enrollment of 19,648 had a female student body enrollment of 55.4 percent and male enrollment of 44.6 percent. The breakdown of “participants” in athletics at UNM for the same year was 56.2 percent male (317 student athletes), 43.8 percent female (247). Those aren’t scholarships offered, but overall participants.
The 11.6 percent differential between the percentage of male athletic participants and the overall male undergraduate enrollment, according to the report, is “significant” and does not comply with guidelines.
In terms of scholarships, male athletes received 62.6 percent ($4.74 million) compared to 37.4 percent ($2.83 million) for female athletes of the total financial aid given in athletics.
“While the awarding of athletic financial assistance does not appear to be based on discriminatory factors it would be difficult to argue that UNM complies with the financial aid component of Title IX,” the report states.
To get the participation figures compliant, the report states UNM could add 90 female “participation opportunities.” But for an athletics department already set to announce in July what sports will be cut to meet a required $1.9 million in “reduction in sports” measures, adding a sport is not considered an option.
Instead, the report adds that “the elimination of sports, especially men’s teams, would reduce that disparity.”
UNM has 22 varsity sports, and the national average is 16.
UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said no decisions have been made on what sports will be cut, but the report will be used as a guideline. And that report gets more specific: “It appears that the only course of action is to eliminate sports with large squad sizes (i.e., football, baseball, soccer and men’s track), minimal regional/NCAA competitive opportunities (i.e., men’s and women’s skiing and men’s soccer) and those without adequate playing and practice facilities (beach volleyball).”
UNM faces a number of issues as it considers its options. For example, it cannot remain in the Mountain West Conference if it eliminates football, and UNM has made it clear that it has no intention of choosing that route. But by cutting men’s indoor track, the MWC would not have the minimum number of schools participating to field a championship in that sport.
Nuñez said he has already been in contact with the MWC and Conference USA, the league Lobo men’s soccer participates in, warning them of what may be coming.
The addition of women’s beach volleyball in 2015 bought the UNM athletics some time in terms of compliance in that it showed a practice of expansion. But that window ended last year, and UNM has shown no other indication of expanding on the women’s side.
According to guidelines set forth by the Office of Civil Rights, an agency under the umbrella of the U.S. Department of Education, a university has four years to “establish all aspects of the sport,” including providing adequate facilities.
UNM’s beach volleyball team plays at Lucky 66 Bowl, 6132 4th Street NW. The report stated that when players were interviewed, they “had several complaints about the quality and cleanliness (litter box, needles, beer caps) of the courts and their safety (public drinking beer and smoking) in the area surrounding the courts.”
There are no financial means for UNM to build its own facility.
Title IX compliance, or lack of, was something Nuñez acknowledged being concerned about immediately upon taking the job last fall.
A joint memo to the UNM campus from Nuñez and UNM President Garnett Stokes stated: “We could spend time assigning blame for the situation, but instead we are committed to spending our energies on finding solutions.”
Nuñez reiterated to a group of reporters Thursday afternoon he wasn’t interested in talking about whose responsibility the matter was in the past or who should be held accountable for the issue now facing the department.
“I’m not dwelling on the past. I have no choice,” Nuñez said. “What I have to do now is start focusing on how we can get this right in the future. I can’t answer questions for why people didn’t do what was necessary or what needed to be done. I know when I came here, there was certain things I saw that needed to be addressed, that needed to be looked at (regarding Title IX compliance).”