By Scott Gates
The student athletes at UNM have had an incredible run with regards to athletics and academics. Most importantly academics. According to CoSida which tracks Academic All-Americans, UNM is ninth in Division I since 2000. In order to be an academic All-American, a student athlete must excel on the field and in the classroom. The UNM administrators and regents have ignored one of the tenets of their charter which is the University of New Mexico’s Mission Statement.
The faux outrage regarding UNM athletics’ $4.9 million deficit, which has been accumulating since 2006 — according to a letter sent by Eddie Nunez to regents’ March 20th 2018. Of the deficit, $1.9 million or 36 percent was added last year.
New athletic director, new president. I get it.
This year’s athletic budget is $34 million according to UNM’s posted financials. To put the alleged financial crisis in context, the average shortfall for 12 years to accrue $4.9 million in debt is approximately $408,000 per year, or approximately 1.1%. Seems like the simple answer would be for the athletic department to simply genuflect to the regents annually and square the books, versus carry the debt forward for 12 years. Or easier yet, just get the approximately 250,000 fans who attend football and basketball games annually to buy a hot dog at $4. Boom, problem solved.
What I have learned in evaluating UNM athletics is that there are more questions to be answered. Who at UNM has the ability to allow a department deficit to accrue? The president, the regents, the COO /CFO? What I have found out is that the audit by Mayor Tim Keller and investigation by Attorney General Hector Balderas into the handling of monies for the Scotland golf trip by then-athletic director Paul Krebs are what led to enhanced financial oversight by Dr. Barbara Damron, secretary of the NM Higher Education Department. Yes, these are the same two political pundits that are now speaking out against cutting athletics. What is interesting is that you likely haven’t heard about the completed audit. The reason? You will have to wait until the next article because there is too much to share.
Perspective matters. Internally, UNM’s accrued deficit doesn’t account for the 80-100 nonscholarship student athletes. There are approximately 450 UNM student athletes, and approximately 350 of those receive scholarships that UNM athletics pays back to UNM. However, the 80 to 100 student athletes who don’t have scholarships pay tuition directly to UNM and not through the athletic program. The in-state tuition for UNM is $7,146 per year, so approximately $571,680 to $714,600 go directly to UNM per year not counting housing, books, food, parking, etc. The reason for the range is non-scholarship student athletes very from year to year This is not part of UNM athletics budget, but they do bear the costs associated with the student athlete.
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