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Critics question UNM’s transparency in sports decision

Critics on Thursday offered a number of reasons why the University of New Mexico should not proceed with a plan to cut four sports, arguing it hurts athletes who had no part in the school’s larger problems and could even cost UNM donor support.

But some also challenged the transparency and timeline of the process.

Though the threat of program eliminations loomed for the last three months, UNM did not publicly reveal any specific plan until Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours before the regents voted to accept the administration’s proposal to drop men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing and women’s beach volleyball.

UNM did not alert the affected programs until late Wednesday afternoon, which Greg Williams — an Albuquerque attorney and open government advocate whose son is slated to play soccer for UNM this fall — said prevented proper analysis heading into the meeting.

“The effect was to keep the players, coaches, and public from making any meaningful response to the Regents at the meeting,” he wrote in a Thursday email to UNM President Garnett Stokes, Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez and Regent President Rob Doughty and shared with the Journal.

“This is an issue of significant importance to the community, not to mention the coaches that will be losing their jobs and the players whose teams are being cut. And yet UNM has chosen secrecy over fairness in the process. Considering how unpopular these decisions will be in the community, the least UNM could have done is to give enough advance notice for the community to give informed feedback.”

Stokes acknowledged the report was very detailed and includes “a tremendous amount of data gathering and data digestion.”

“I know we will spend a lot of time helping people digest what is in that report. I think it’s really difficult to make these kinds of decisions and it is expected that people would be enormously upset by it,” she said.

“More time won’t change how difficult this is.”

Socorro attorney David Pato is also raising questions about process. In a letter to New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas and Second Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez that he shared with the Journal, Pato alleges UNM violated the state Open Meetings Act. He contends that the agenda released ahead of Thursday’s meeting was too vague, referencing only a “discussion and action on athletics.”

The agenda “failed to detail with specificity those items to be discussed and acted upon by the Board, thereby depriving the community an opportunity to attend and listen to the deliberations of the Board, in contravention of the Act,” he wrote.

A UNM spokeswoman said late Wednesday the university had not received Pato’s letter.

UNM issued notice of the meeting July 3 and released the agenda July 16.

Balderas’ spokesman David Carl said in a written statement the AG “takes enforcement of the Open Meetings Act very seriously and will do a thorough review of this complaint.”

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