The embattled University of New Mexico athletics department got some support from democratic state lawmakers who introduced legislation to hopefully save sports at the school that were on the cutting board.
According to the Albuquerque Journal, House Democrats are pushing a bill that would appropriate $2 million in funds to UNM for reinstatement of the men’s and women’s skiing teams, beach volleyball and men’s soccer programs – all of which are due to be cut this summer.
For its part, UNM is making clear that it did not solicit the funds.
“UNM has not initiated a request for funding to reinstate any discontinued sports offerings,” UNM spokeswoman Cinnamon Blair wrote in an email to the Journal. “We will examine this bill carefully and will provide information for the fiscal impact report.”
House Bill 320 would require that UNM return the money if it does not follow through with reinstating the sports. The bill is backed by House Speaker Brian Egolf of Santa Fe; House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton of Albuquerque; Lundstrom; and Reps. Javier Martínez and Antonio “Moe” Maestas, both of Albuquerque.
Some Republicans oppose the bill in its current form.
“I view it as almost a bailout,” said Rep. Kelly Fajardo (R-Belen) in an interview. “The state of New Mexico already gives a lot of money to UNM, and UNM has to be accountable for their budget.”
In April of 2018 the UNM athletics department reported that owed the university $4.7 million, money it borrowed to keep its 22 teams afloat amid flagging revenues and large payouts to coaches. Most programs in the UNC’s division currently support around 17 teams. By August, the school had voted to cut the four sports, including men’s soccer, men’s and women’s skiing and women’s beach volleyball.