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Rally set for UNM sports that are on chopping block

The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team was one of four teams cut at a now-invalidated Board of Regents meeting July 19. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL FILE

A “Rally To Save Lobo Sports” has been organized for 6 p.m. today at the UNM Student Union Building mall area between the front of Popejoy Hall and the SUB’s south entrance.

The organizers say the rally will “call for the reconsideration of cuts by the UNM Regents to the UNM athletics program eliminating (men’s) soccer, men’s and women’s skiing and beach volleyball.”

The statement also reads, “The rally … will demonstrate support for our student-athletes, and to urge UNM’s leaders to vote to keep all of our current Lobo teams.”

The Regents on July 19 voted 6-0 to approve a proposal from UNM President Garnett Stokes and Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez to eliminate the four sports while drastically altering the rosters of others, including phasing out the entire diving portion of the women’s swimming and diving team.

The decision, they said, was based on three factors: finances (they aimed to save $1.9 million annually, but fell short of that mark with the cuts), to be compliant with federal Title IX gender equity mandates (UNM is currently far from compliant), and to align with Mountain West Conference affiliation (all four sports cut are not in the Mountain West while UNM’s 18 remaining sports are in that league).

Since the vote, heavy community outcry and political criticism has come, including from lawmakers who said UNM should have asked for state funding and from Attorney General Hector Balderas, who ruled the regents violated the state’s Open Meetings Act in July by not posting an adequate agenda.

Meanwhile, a petition to the regents on the website that started in April and is titled “Save UNM Mens Soccer!!” had 15,263 signatures as of Wednesday night.

UNM’s men’s soccer team won’t be at the rally or at Friday’s meeting as they are in Colorado to play two exhibition games (Wednesday at Denver University and Saturday at Air Force).

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