By Lee Roy Lucero
Enchantment Sports Staff Writer
In 1999, University of New Mexico’s newly hired Athletic Director Rudy Davalos, after a yearlong study, made the tough decision to cut three non-revenue sports: men’s swimming, wrestling and the very popular men’s gymnastic program.
There wasn’t a long, drawn-out process, there weren’t big meetings, there wasn’t much whining, crying and gnashing of teeth. It was a simple decision; UNM was juggling too many sports at the time and due to budget restraints and losses, the three sports had to go.
UNM wasn’t the only school making those decisions at the time. The Columbia Dispatch reported that in 1969 there were 234 NCAA schools with men’s gymnastics, in 1999 that number dropped to 28, and in 2011 there were 17. This wasn’t the first or last time UNM would cut sports, and some of those cut had been brought back.
Wrestling, baseball, women’s swimming and women’s basketball were all dropped in 1987, and women’s gymnastics was cut in 1992.
Why? Money! These sports are non-revenue generating sports. Sad to say, but with very little funding and no attendance, they are a drain on the overall athletic budget. And none is part of a television package.
Flash forward to this past April.
New President Garnett Stokes and new Athletic Director Eddie Nunez faced the same issue as Davalos had in 1993. UNM has major budget issues and is juggling too many sports.
Nunez announced a new round of sports cuts was coming.
When Lobo fans went through this before, life went on. New Mexicans understand we aren’t part of a Power 5 community (a school from one of the five major college conferences), and there is a large sucking sound coming from these non-revenue-generating sports, and these sports still have no television contracts.
With the studies done, in July Nunez announced the school would cut men’s soccer, skiing and beach vollevball. The university will also phase out the women’s diving program, while reducing spots in men’s track and field. The proposed cuts were given to the UNM Board of Regents, who after a public meeting, voted 6-0 to approve the much-needed sports cuts. The sports would be eliminated starting the 2019-20 school year.
Story over, right?
Wrong! There are major differences from 1999 and 2018: Social media and this millennial idea that government should be out harvesting large sums of money to cover these money-sucking sports. The alleged fans who rarely, if ever, attended or financially supported these non-revenue sports, took to social media and ripped on Stokes and Nunez. Then grandstanding Attorney General Hector Balderas decided to poke his nose into this decision. He held a press conference, announcing Thursday that his office will take the University of New Mexico to court unless its board of regents reconsiders the decision to eliminate the four sports.
I’ll help Balderas out to understand this decision, and let’s use Davalos’ 1993 reasoning: UNM doesn’t have enough money in the budget, these sports bring no revenue in, and UNM is carrying too many sports.
Meanwhile Democrat state legislators held their own press conference saying, “UNM never asked us for money.”
This presser had me scrambling to get my resume updated to apply for a lobbyist position with UNM. Later that day, I discovered that UNM did employ lobbyists to head to Santa Fe to seek cash for UNM.
If that’s the case, some politicos appear to be toying with our taxes to help UNM sports – and, likely, themselves.
To heck with education, poverty and high crime issues in New Mexico. We need a ski team! We need beach volleyball! We need men’s soccer!
So what if few New Mexicans get scholarships with those programs and the sports bleed money from the school.
Thus, in a couple of weeks the dog-and-pony show starts again. The Board of Regents are forced to meet, UNM soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein will be there and so will more “fans” – some of whom have never attended a soccer game (with no money to donate, of course) – screaming, whining and demanding UNM keeps the sliced sports – again, money-sucking, non-revenue sports that UNM continues to waste resources upon.
Then the vote will come back 6-0 – or 7-0 if the missing regent shows up.
Thanks Hector. Now how about dealing with all the real problems that plague this state?