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Regents will vote before any UNM sports programs are cut

The University of New Mexico will not eliminate any sports unless the school’s regents have given the OK, officials said this week.

Unlike UNM’s controversial 2017 move to drop skiing — one quickly reversed — the university says any forthcoming proposal to drop sports would have to get clearance from the Board of Regents before taking effect.

Regents’ policy does not include such decisions among the board’s duties and functions, but policy does acknowledge there may be additional situations “in which it may be appropriate for the Regents to act.” It charges the president to work with the regents’ president to seek the board’s action on proposals of significant “consequence” or “public importance.”

Regent President Rob Doughty said Tuesday the regents and President Garnett Stokes determined that these athletic department changes should go all the way to the board, much like a tuition proposal would.

“(Stokes) felt like it was an important enough topic that it be brought to the regents, and the regents agree that the regents (should) put their final approval on the proposal,” Doughty said.

Under a decision-making process outlined by UNM this week, Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez is responsible for determining which changes his financially strapped department should make to reduce spending by $1.9 million effective in 2020. It’s a challenge that will likely include cutting some of the school’s 22 varsity sports, and Nuñez’s ongoing analysis factors criteria like each sport’s budget, history, community impact and effect on Title IX gender equity obligations.

Nuñez will provide his recommendations to Stokes, who will discuss them with Nuñez and any other relevant parties and then determine if she supports the decision.

Once the plan has Stokes’ support, UNM says Nuñez will notify athletes and coaches.

But it’s still not a done deal.

Stokes will then take the plan to a regents meeting, where the public can comment and the board will vote.

“(Nuñez) and his colleagues are in the best position to make the recommendation to us, but this is of such significance,” Stokes said of the plan to funnel the proposal up to the board.

The regents never voted on the ski team last year — neither to drop it nor to reinstate it a month later.

Former Athletic Director Paul Krebs announced UNM would cut men’s and women’s skiing via an April 13, 2017, news release issued just as the affected athletes were being notified.

Skiers and supporters pleaded the program’s case at a subsequent regents’ meeting — some calling the cut a “rash” move — even though the team’s status was not on the agenda.

After private donors offered to help financially support the program, then-President Chaouki Abdallah announced a few weeks later that UNM would in fact keep the team at least one more year.

“I think there could’ve been a better process,” Doughty said of the way skiing was handled.

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