Copyright 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
The University of New Mexico football team is expected to get its $676,500 locker room upgrade after all.
Though the project failed to earn approval from the UNM Regents' Finance & Facilities committee last week, it managed to clear the full Board of Regents on Monday - even getting a "yes" vote from the regent who criticized it in committee over concerns the money could be better spent on the athletics operating deficit.
Regent Tom Clifford said he changed his mind after getting more clarity on the funding model, which relies heavily - but not entirely - on donations.
Athletic department leaders have bemoaned the current lockers as dilapidated, too-small and a recruiting hindrance. Garrett Adcock, the student regent and a former UNM football player, also spoke to the issues during Monday's meeting.
"I've seen the lockers collapse on people; I've seen other lockers with the sides totally ripped off (and) you can't repair it," he said. "There have been rats in the lockers."
But the proposal drew criticism from a couple of faculty members, who cited other areas of need around campus and mentioned athletics' larger financial challenges. That includes the department's $4.7 million deficit to the university.
"How could one in good, responsible conscience seek funds for an entirely new project in an area that is in serious debt with no demonstrated plan to pay it down?" Faculty Senate President Pamela Pyle asked.
Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez advocated for the remodel, saying the locker room is a "critical" space for student-athletes. He also outlined funding centered on donations, including $200,000 from the $10 million gift Larry Chavez of Dreamstyle Remodeling pledged last year.
"You're saying the entire pot for this renovation has been donor-directed, so it's covered by Mr. Chavez?" Regent Suzanne Quillen asked.
"Mr. Chavez or other donors, yes," Nuñez said.
But Nuñez clarified in an interview afterward that the project will use more than donations, including $120,000 in bond money dedicated for capital projects and $100,000 in game guarantee funds UNM football gets for playing Texas A&M and Louisiana State University in future years.
He said his comments to the regents were meant to address specific concerns Clifford raised last week about how the locker room money could - and should - be spent instead on the athletics operating deficit. He wanted to explain that many donors gave specifically for this purpose.
Nuñez says donors will ultimately cover $456,500 for the project. But $200,000 of that has not come in yet, and Nuñez said the university is providing the amount through what he called "a loan" to get started. Asked about athletics' spotty track record for repaying the university, he said "the good part is we have donors who are already pledging money" for the project. The project needs final approval from the New Mexico Higher Education Department.
Also: The Board of Regents officially voted to deny head football coach Bob Davie's appeal of the 30-day suspension former president Chaouki Abdallah levied last month following a series of investigations into the coach and the football program. The regents made the same decision last month, but their original vote was null because it occurred in closed session.Davie Letter
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