Lawmakers, Regents debate UNM sports bill

Politics - Government

The passionate fight to save UNM sports teams continued at the state capitol today. Lawmakers want to help UNM, but they were met with resistance from the university’s president and athletic director.

“The team with the highest GPA, countless national titles, and overall national title had to pay the price,” says Katharine Irwin.

Irwin was one of the many student-athletes who turned out at the Roundhouse this morning, pleading with lawmakers to save the sport she loves so much.

“Just this past weekend, our team had possibly the last home meet in Red River. Yet no one from the administration in the Athletic Department cared to do the 3-hour drive to show up,” she says.

Skiing, along with men’s soccer and beach volleyball, were cut by the UNM Board of Regents back in July to reconcile a debt in the athletic department.

“People are affected by it and that is why this is such a difficult thing that we decided to do,” says President Garnett Stokes.

Since the beginning, lawmakers have said they’ll help save the teams, thanks to a budget surplus.

However, House Appropriations and Finance Committee Chair, Patty Lundstrom (D) Gallup, is clearly frustrated with how UNM has handled the situation.

“When I listened to the president be really emphatic about how painful these decisions are, my question was well why didn’t you work with me in July?” says Lundstrom.

President Stokes made it clear during today’s hearing that she stands by the decision that this would be the programs’ final year.

“I couldn’t work out a deal with you without truly alienating the people that are at our institution,” says Stokes.

Rep. Javier Martinez (D) Albuquerque, went on to call UNM’s football team a “money pit.”

“Did you ever consider leaving the Mountain West Conference, cutting out other sports?” he asked.

Stokes said that was out of the question.

“Eighty-eight percent of our revenue from the Mountain West Conference is generated as a result of our football program,” says Stokes.

Saturday’s hearing was just a discussion and no action was taken on House Bill 320.

The bill would give UNM $2 million to reinstate the programs and also requires UNM to be transparent about sports funding.

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