House budget bill would revive men's soccer at UNM - Albuquerque Journal

House budget bill would revive men’s soccer at UNM

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – The University of New Mexico Athletics Department would lose all of its state general-fund dollars unless it reinstates the men’s soccer team and three other sports this fall, under language in a massive budget bill moving through the House.

But the department stands to see a healthy bump in funding if it agrees to revive the teams, which are being eliminated by university leaders.

The sports requirement is part of a $7 billion state budget proposal that’s expected to be voted on by the full House in the next several days.

If approved, the budget would move to the Senate – where the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, said Tuesday that he remains skeptical about “micromanaging” the university.

As it stands now, the House budget plan would boost the state’s general-fund appropriation for the UNM Athletics Department to $4.6 million next year, up from $2.6 million this year. That’s even more than the $4.1 million that UNM requested.

Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, chairwoman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee, said the budget plan includes a spending increase for athletics programs at various state universities, not just the University of New Mexico.

She also said lawmakers will be more closely scrutinizing university athletics department spending on travel expenses, salaries and contracts.

“I think it’s important we get that accountability,” Lundstrom told reporters.

To receive the $4.6 million in state funding, however, UNM would have to reinstate the men’s and women’s ski teams, the women’s beach volleyball team and the men’s soccer team.

The university’s Board of Regents unanimously voted last year to cut the sports, based on a recommendation from UNM President Garnett Stokes and Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez, both in their first year at UNM.

The move came after years of financial struggles in the Athletics Department. University officials also said they had other reasons for cutting sports, such as coming into compliance with federal Title IX mandates for female participation.

“The contingencies imposed by the language in (the bill) put UNM Athletics in a critically precarious financial position, and seriously challenges our efforts to create a successful and efficient department capable of supporting our student-athletes’ well-being, training and overall success,” Nuñez said in a statement.

“The additional $2M that is allocated with the contingency to reinstate the cut sports does not address the actual request we have made for $1.5M for addressing current needs,” he said. “Reinstating the sports increases the need for more programmatic support, and considerable funding to remain Title IX compliant by investing in existing and additional women’s sports.”

In an interview with Journal reporters and editors earlier Tuesday, Stokes said that even if the state provides the funding to maintain those sports, there would be other “substantial, recurring” costs.

UNM would have to beef up the women’s beach volleyball program, including the creation of adequate facilities for the team, and add a new women’s sports team to UNM’s lineup to meet federal Title IX requirements.

“We have tremendous needs at UNM, very important priorities, Stokes said. “And it would be hard for me to make the case that reinstating a sport is a top priority for the University of New Mexico.”

Lundstrom and other Democratic lawmakers had asked the regents last year to reconsider cutting any sports. Lundstrom, in fact, last summer attended a UNM Board of Regents meeting, at which, she said, she was rudely cut off and dismissed, even after students offered to donate their allotted speaking time to her.

In any case, the state funding for UNM Athletics is just a small piece of the program’s financial picture. The university’s total athletics budget of $32.9 million is also funded by ticket sales, student fees and fundraising efforts, according to Legislative Finance Committee data.

The House budget proposal is expected to be acted on this week. It has advanced so far along party lines, with Democrats in favor.

House Republicans have already expressed concern about meddling too much in university operations.

Smith said Tuesday that he hasn’t looked closely at the House proposal on athletics but that he’s skeptical about telling the university so precisely what it must do.

“I’ve expressed my opposition to micromanaging UNM long before we ever got into session,” he said Tuesday.

Athletics at New Mexico State University, whose teams also participate at the Division I level under the National Collegiate Athletic Association, would also receive an increase under the House proposal, though at a much smaller rate than UNM.

NMSU would get about $3.4 million next year, up from $3.1 million.

NMSU Athletic Director Mario Moccia said the majority of the increased support the Aggies had asked for from the state this session was tied directly to increased travel demands for all their sports, including football charter flights, meal money for road games and renting buses rather than having coaches drive teams to and from events in vans.

“I think anyone associated with our program over the last 4 years knows we don’t have frills and don’t have any ‘fat’ on the body,” Moccia said in an email. “… Our main goal is to make sure they are educated and compete in a safe and healthy environment and while we didn’t get all we were asking for we will continue to be frugal and make the most of what we have and plan on balancing our budget for the 9th time in 10 years.”

Journal sports writer Geoff Grammer contributed to this report.

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

Nativo Sponsored Content

taboola desktop


UNM Football: Derrick Baker intent on increasing Lobos’ strength
When University of New Mexico football ... When University of New Mexico football head coach Danny Gonzales spoke to Derrick Baker about becoming the Lobos' director of athletic performance there wasn't ...
Women's Basketball: Reus enjoying her sixth-person role for UNM
Paula Reus doesn't mind being the ... Paula Reus doesn't mind being the sixth wheel on the University of New Mexico women's basketball express. After all, it's not a bad gig. ...
Emptying the Notebook: Lobo Allen-Tovar steps up at Wyoming
ABQnews Seeker
Some extra notes, stats, quotes and ... Some extra notes, stats, quotes and whatever else I could to empty out of the old notebook after UNM's close loss at Wyoming
Lobos take Wyoming to the wire, lose by 2
ABQnews Seeker
UNM got 25 points from Jay ... UNM got 25 points from Jay Allen-Tovar and 22 from Jamal Mashburn Jr., but it wasn't enough to upset the Wyoming Cowboys in a ...
Lobo women rally past Fresno State, stay perfect in ...
Antonia Anderson was not satisfied with ... Antonia Anderson was not satisfied with the way her University of New Mexico women's basketball team played in Saturday's first half. She did something ...
Lobos face surprise of the Mountain West Saturday at ...
The ball sails freely in that ... The ball sails freely in that cold, thin air of Laramie, Wyoming.And as the University ...
Twins subplot aside, Lobos' Duffs prioritize getting the victory
Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the ... Twin showdown, double trouble, twice the fun ...The Duff and Cavinder sisters have und ...
Garvey tells Lobos their upward journey can begin here, ...
When Steve Garvey first came to ... When Steve Garvey first came to Albuquerque in 1969 as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in just his second ...
Lobos begin indoor T&F stretch with MLK Jr. invitational ...
The University of New Mexico men's ... The University of New Mexico men's and women's track and field programs begin their four-weekend stretch of home meets Saturday with the Dr. Martin ...