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UNM hit with emails after cutting sports

Critics flooded the in-boxes of University of New Mexico leaders following the controversial decision to eliminate sports – with many lacing their complaints with threats to halt their support of the university and Lobo athletics.


UNM President Garnett Stokes/Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal

Alumni, longtime fans, parents of athletes, youth soccer coaches and others sent emails to UNM President Garnett Stokes, Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez and the Board of Regents immediately before and in the weeks after the July 19 meeting at which regents initially voted to cut men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing, and women’s beach volleyball. Regents upheld nearly all the same cuts when redoing the meeting in August.

In more than 300 pages of emails the Journal obtained by public records request, writers echo the arguments made during public comment at the regents’ meetings. They call UNM’s decision shortsighted, note soccer’s popularity, highlight the soccer and ski teams’ successes and questioned why UNM spared its costliest sport – football – despite its spotty track record.

But many also raised the specter of pulling their support from UNM – financial and otherwise – due to cuts.

“With this decision and that of the Board of Regents to support the recommendation, I have no choice but to sever all ties with the University; my annual Lobo Club pledge of $1,500, annual Golden Goal pledge of $1,000, season basketball tickets for the past 20 years, and any desire to continue in-kind gifts to the athletic department,” one booster said in a message just prior to the first regents vote.

One writer warned the regents that she would cease her monthly contributions to UNM Hospitals, quit attending Popejoy performances, and that her son “will no longer be a candidate for attending UNM.”

Many angry about the program deletions also vowed to boycott Lobo sports altogether.

“Please be assured that, as a regular supporter of UNM athletics, I will never again attend a UNM sports event, especially football, basketball or baseball,” one emailer wrote to Stokes.

“I had planned to purchase season Lobo football tickets to show my support for UNM athletics. I will not be buying these tickets now,” another writer said.

Nuñez and Stokes recommended cutting the sports to help stabilize the athletics budget and ensure the department achieved Title IX compliance. UNM’s analysis indicates the plan will reduce annual spending by about $1.1 million.

“The long term repercussions have clearly been overlooked. I, for one, will stop future donations and endowments to the University,” one alumnus wrote in his message.

Whether any critics followed through – or gave money in the first place – is difficult to verify. The UNM Foundation and the Lobo Club, which raises money for athletics, guard individual donor information unless the donors choose to go public. The Journal attempted to contact three of the email writers; none replied to messages.

Jalen Dominguez, Lobo Club interim executive director, said it’s too soon to gauge the impact, though he has heard the outcry.

“Some individuals have expressed that while they are disappointed, they understand the issues; others have expressed their frustration and sadness. “This process has been very difficult on everyone involved and impacted,” he said in a written statement. “We have yet to see what, if any, financial impact this might have for Lobo Club as we continue our efforts this year.”

Year-to-date pledges for the Lobo Club Scholarship Fund are up 5.9 percent, according to figures provided by Dominguez.

But football season tickets sales are down 12 percent compared with the same time last year.

The Lobo Club reported record-setting contributions at its annual gala, which was held last month.

While the emails to UNM leaders overwhelmingly reflected doubt and frustration, a few writers praised Stokes for her leadership under difficult circumstances.

“I just want to thank you for being so courageous and to let you know that there are people out there who support you,” wrote one UNM research scholar, who said he thought she “made the right choices.”