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Bill’s message to lawmakers: Don’t meddle

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

A state senator and four-year Lobo football letterman has a message for fellow lawmakers: Stop trying to micromanage university athletic programs.

Sen. Mark Moores

And he’s come up with a creative way of sending his message.

Sen. Mark Moores, R-Albuquerque, introduced a bill Wednesday that would appropriate funding to New Mexico State University and mandate that the money be spent on starting men’s and women’s skiing teams, beach volleyball and men’s soccer programs – sports the Aggies don’t have.

The filing is in response to a measure Democratic leaders in the state House introduced last week that would appropriate $2 million to the University of New Mexico Board of Regents for reinstatement of those same sports – all of which are due to be cut this summer.

UNM President Garnett Stokes has previously told the Journal that she stands by her recommendation to regents to cut those sports.

“It is not in our best interest to carry 22 sports, and if we were to reinstate all of them, we would have to deal with Title IX compliance by adding yet another women’s sport,” Stokes said. “… I honestly don’t believe it’s fiscally responsible.”

Moores said the point of filing the legislation – which is almost word-for-word the same as the House bill with an exception of substituting NMSU for UNM – is to send the message that the Legislature should stay away from making decisions that affect university athletic programs and the lives of student-athletes.

“There are very good reasons that the Legislature should not try to micromanage regents and presidents,” Moores said. “Their job is to run the universities. … I’m very disheartened that they had to cut sports teams. It’s a tough decision. I think it’s inappropriate for the Legislature to micromanage, pontificate, pander and make a decision that the presidents and the regents had to make, and jump into a decision for political and personal reasons.”

But if the Legislature is going to meddle in UNM’s athletic affairs, he argues, it should be willing to do the same with NMSU. And that includes appropriating another $2 million to NMSU, requiring it to start athletics programs it doesn’t have, and making it adhere to stringent financial reporting requirements that UNM would be subject to under the other measure.

NMSU Athletics Director Mario Moccia is making it clear that his department didn’t request the money to add sports programs.

“We do have our request for general obligation money as well as capital outlay projects as we have had in the past,” Moccia said in an email.

Moccia said he would do whatever the law requires, but has no intention to add any sports. NMSU maintains teams in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s soccer, softball, women’s swimming and diving, women’s indoor and outdoor track and field and women’s volleyball.

Moores acknowledges that he did not receive any requests from NMSU officials to fund additional sports.

UNM officials, meanwhile, have said their university isn’t asking for the House bill, nor are they requesting state money to reinstate the sports.

The legislation says UNM would have to return the money if it isn’t spent.

The bill would also require UNM to provide a yearly report to lawmakers about the Athletics Department’s travel expenses, salaries and contracts. In addition, it would empower the Legislative Finance Committee to conduct performance evaluations.

Sponsors of the UNM bill include House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe; House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton of Albuquerque; Rep. Patricia Lundstrom of Gallup; and Reps. Javier Martínez and Antonio “Moe” Maestas, both of Albuquerque. All are Democrats.