The numbers continue to be crunched as the decision to eliminate one, or more, of the University of New Mexico’s 22 varsity sports programs draws near.
At Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting in Gallup, the UNM athletics department added grant-in-aid (scholarship) figures to the sport-by-sport expense report it released just last month.
As expected, the more complete financial picture has made one sport in particular — the NCAA allows 85 scholarships for football — stand out even more as easily the department’s largest expense for the current 2017-18 fiscal year, which ends June 30. Lobo football, according to the department’s latest projections, will cost $8.3 million, of which $1.7 million is due to grant-in-aid.
That $1.7 million figure is more than five and a half times more than any other sport in the department. Women’s soccer accounted for $304,393 in grant-in-aid, the second highest figure for an individual sport. Some sports, like cross country and track & field, reported combined men’s and women’s totals that were higher than women’s soccer, but didn’t account for there being multiple teams.
Men’s basketball, which UNM reports to the NCAA as being the only sport turning a profit, costs $4.2 million, of which $275,374 is in grant-in-aid numbers.
The regents, who will have the final vote in deciding what sports get eliminated later this summer, had asked for specific sport-by-sport expense numbers before any decisions were made. First-year athletics director Eddie Nuñez has said he doesn’t know why sport-by-sport expenses weren’t properly tabulated in years past, but they will be now.
UNM athletics has reported deficits in eight of the past 10 fiscal years and on June 30, when the current fiscal year closes, is expected to make that nine of 11 years.
The Regents earlier this spring voted on a budget proposal Nuñez and UNM President Garnett Stokes presented that calls for a “reduction in sports” of $1.9 million annually. Stokes has made clear she sees no other way to achieve that measure without the elimination of sports.
Last week, UNM released a report showing the department is also non-compliant with Title IX laws that mandate resources and participation numbers in athletics mirror the male/female enrollment ratios of the university.
Based on 2016-17 enrollment figures, UNM had 55.4 percent female undergraduate enrollment, 44.6 male enrollment. In the same year, however, males represented 56.2 percent of the participants in the athletic department. The Title IX report released last week concluded, “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.”
LOBO CLUB FUNDRAISING: Though Tuesday was not the first time it was reported, part of the financial report given to the Board of Regents on Tuesday was an attempt to explain fundraising contributions of the Lobo Club, the fundraising arm of the department.
Regents had questioned why the Lobo Club’s transfer of the Lobo Scholarship Fund to athletics was just $2.2 million this fiscal year — $400,000 less than last year.
An information sheet given to the regents explained the bulk of the money comes from donations that are required to purchase most season tickets for football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
While UNM had decided to fire its former men’s basketball coach on March 31, 2017, after several years of declining attendance in the Pit, the report given to the regents on Tuesday suggested negative press was to blame for declining attendance and the fundraising shortfalls.
“The reduction in the 2017-18 total reflects the decrease in basketball seat sales and negative publicity from the prior season,” the report states.
SCHOLARSHIP FUND BY SPORT: Tuesday’s report also indicated that most money generated for the Lobo Scholarship Fund this fiscal year, primarily the donations required to buy season tickets, came via “men’s basketball only” contributions of $976,518 (meaning donations from people only buying men’s basketball tickets).
People who bought both football and men’s basketball tickets accounted for $954,646 of the fund’s total. “Football only” contributions accounted for $119,477. Those figures do not include gift in kind contributions.