UNM Athletics looks to cut sports teams, but which ones?

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The University of New Mexico’s Athletic Department is being forced to tighten up its budget — and that means it may cut sports teams.

In order to do that, Lobo fans are about to get familiar with the term Title IX.

Heather Cowan, UNM’s Title IX coordinator said, the athletic department can’t even think about axing any team, before it goes through the Office of Equal Opportunity, to make sure it’s being fair.

At Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting, UNM’s new president announced the Athletic Department has no other option than to cut sports teams in order to help pay down a $5 million debt to the university. 

The department has until July 1 to nail down the teams it will cut. 

Right now the UNM Athletic Department has 20 sports teams, the spirit squad, and the band — more than 400 participants in all. 

The women have more teams than the men. 

“We will be engaged, all of us, in some very painful and deliberate discussions,” President Garnett Stokes said. 

Those though discussions will also go through the Office of Equal Opportunity that works with Title IX. This means the university’s sports programs have to reflect the ratio of males and females that make up the student body.

“We have 44 percent male students and 56 percent female students,” Title IX Coordinator Heather Cowan said.

According to Cowan, UNM has to be very careful about which teams it drops. 

“That overall picture and ensuring that there isn’t anything that would throw that proportion out of whack — and wouldn’t be creating an inequity across gender lines,” she said. 

The university follows the same guidelines when it comes to athletes’ scholarships. 

For example, when it comes to football, the school can give up to 85 scholarships to football players. To make up for it on the women’s side, the women have more teams, and more scholarships in all the sports played by both sexes. 

Cowan says no matter what the final outcome is, the school can’t disturb the Title IX balance. 

“There will be a lot of talks to come. Before they make any final decisions, they’ll have to run it by my office,” she said. 

According to UNM, other schools in the Mountain West have 17 to 18 sports teams. 

The Athletics Department hopes to cut close to $2 million a year by cutting a handful of teams. Those savings would be used to pay back the school and to keep from borrowing even more money in the future. 

The Athletic department had until Friday, April 13, to give the Board of Regents a breakdown of what each sport costs.

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