At the University of New Mexico, the turning of the calendar from June to July this year isn’t merely marking the month — it’s marking the end of an era in the school’s athletic department.
Monday marks the official end of four Lobo athletics programs: men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing, and beach volleyball. The move was approved last year by the school’s board of regents amid financial woes and concerns regarding Title IX compliance, despite vocal outcry from supporters and pleas from lawmakers for the school to reconsider.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, state lawmakers made efforts to rescue the sports programs on the chopping block as recently as February. A budget bill proposed in the state house would have sent UNM $4.6 million from the state’s general fund — a figure that was $2 million more than the school had been receiving and $500,000 more than it requested — on the condition that the sports be reinstated for the coming school year.
UNM officials in March, however, shot down that proposal, claiming that increasing funds wouldn’t be enough to cover operating costs in the long term. School president Garnett Stokes added “there is no way to become Title IX compliant without reducing sports.” Later that month, the state Senate cut language that required sport reinstatement from the budget bill.
Ultimately, the school’s board of regents in May approved a budget that projects an athletics shortfall of $1 million, despite the cuts. And thus, the programs met their demise.
In a Q&A with the Journal, now former men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein said that his program’s impact goes beyond dollars and cents.
“How do you put an impact on what our program and our alumni have provided for this state?” Fishbein asked. “As soon as collegiate athletics is just about a business model, we’re in big trouble and that’s something all across the country we really need to look at. This is part of the educational mission of the university. At the University of New Mexico and other schools, we’ve gotten away from that and it’s something we really need to analyze. What our players have done and contributed to in terms of impactfulness, you cannot put a price tag on it.”