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Firing of UNM coach just latest discrimination

The Hispano Round Table of New Mexico and New Mexico LULAC have been addressing education, employment and civil rights issues with the University of New Mexico for decades. The firing of coach Yvonne Sanchez is just the latest in a long history of institutionalized racism and discrimination of which many in the public are not aware.

Sanchez’s case is one piece of a very large puzzle that goes back to the earliest years of the founding of UNM in 1889.

Coach Sanchez was fired on March 18. On that day Sanchez said she found it “interesting” that male coaches at New Mexico have been given more leeway and time to rebuild programs.

On March 21, she stated, “I do not agree with my release, the reason supporting it nor the manner in which my release was conducted. Let me make it clear that I do not believe the actions taken against me by the University, Paul Krebs, and Janice Ruggiero were racially driven.”

Clearly, there is a lot of confusion from the community as to why Sanchez was fired. We know the shot callers in college athletics don’t like to hear the word “discrimination.” We also understand Sanchez is under a contract that is being closed out that affects her livelihood.

The Hispano Round Table of New Mexico and New Mexico LULAC view the situation from a macro perspective after many years of fielding complaints about UNM. We hear from diverse sectors at the university, and it is clear to us that the problem is not isolated to only one program, such as athletics, or only one individual, such as coach Sanchez.

We have signed agreements with UNM calling for parity in all areas going back to the year 1998 to address education, employment, economic development and cultural celebration. Most of these goals and objectives of the Hispanic Statement of Cooperation have never been addressed by UNM and its leadership.

UNM is designated as a “Hispanic Serving Institution” under the Higher Education Act of 1965 by the U.S. Department of Education, but they rarely promote this fact.

Soon after President Robert Frank took the helm at UNM, there was a very covert effort by his leadership team to revamp and change the requirements and qualifications for the Bridge and Lottery Scholarship program. This change was made and posted on the UNM official website overnight and before this could be publicly discussed and aired out.

This change was going to immediately and adversely impact thousands of incoming freshman students from across the state. Had the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico and NM LULAC not stepped in to stop this already implemented policy, the injustice would have been carried out.

Hispano faculty, staff and administration at UNM are at an all-time low and we are constantly getting calls to address Equal Employment Opportunity issues with faculty, staff and administration.

Some departments at UNM only employ one or two Hispanics and in the entire UNM Athletic Department, there are only two Hispanic coaches (the women’s golf coach and an assistant softball coach) out of 22 intercollegiate sports programs offered at UNM – only two!

Krebs, the UNM athletic director, has negotiated and signed many multimillion-dollar contracts with previous coaches to include football coach Mike Locksley and coach Ritchie McKay. Coach Steve Alford skipped town owing UNM over $1 million, and current coach Craig Neal is making $1 million per year.

The list goes on and on with UNM losing millions of dollars in golden parachutes.

UNM’s athletic program is over $3.1 million in the red. Paul Krebs is compensated well over $350,000 a year to better manage our tax dollars and UNM’s $50 million athletic budget.

The problem of institutionalized racism and discrimination at UNM has been going on for a very long time and the case involving coach Sanchez is simply the latest in a many-decadeslong issue we have been fighting for a very long time.

Ralph Arellanes is also executive director of New Mexico LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens.

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