Years of athletic department red ink have forced University of New Mexico officials to consider reducing sports for budgetary relief.
But finances are just part of the equation as they weigh which teams to keep and which to cut.
In assessing its 22-sport department, the university will make obvious considerations about each team’s budget and its impact on the school’s gender equity obligations under Title IX. However, the list of evaluation criteria also includes facilities, conference affiliation, history, and more nebulous metrics like “level of support necessary to compete at the highest level” and community impact. (See box for current evaluation criteria.)
And more may emerge.
Despite a looming decision deadline, athletic director Eddie Nuñez acknowledged this week that the evaluation criteria remain a work in progress, and that other factors may come into play.
“We’re trying to fine-tune this as we go through this,” Nuñez said.
UNM had originally self-imposed a July 1 deadline for announcing any program cuts, but the timeline since has shifted to a more general “this summer.” Nuñez said any decisions will occur before the academic year starts in mid-August.
“My focus is to make sure we do this right,” he said.
An athletics budget plan recently approved by regents assumes $1.9 million savings via sport reductions starting in fiscal year 2020, but Nuñez is not saying how many sports that could be.
Though Mountain West Conference bylaws stipulate members must field football, men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball — and the conference would not have enough teams to hold a championship meet in men’s track and field should UNM drop that sport — Nuñez would not label any sports untouchable. Even those spared will likely have to make sacrifices, he said.
UNM’s athletics department has failed to meet its budget eight of the past 10 years — accumulating a $4.7 million deficit to the university — and will miss another when the 2018 books close this month. To start repaying that deficit and trim expenses in the long-term, regents in April approved a plan that includes the sport reductions.
UNM must also address the imbalance in opportunities for male and female athletes revealed in a school-commissioned Title IX report released just last week.
Sport evaluation criteria
As the University of New Mexico considers possible sports cuts to address budget problems, athletic director Eddie Nuñez said it is considering the following criteria:
- The support structure necessary for each sport
- Level of support necessary to compete at the highest level
- Budget impact
- Title IX
- Conference affiliation
- Program history
- Impact and support within the community
- Donor support