The Board of Regents will convene to have a meeting regarding cuts to four sports from the University of New Mexico’s athletics program tomorrow at 1 p.m.
Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a re-do. The meeting held on July 19 “violated” the state’s Open Meetings Act (OMA) according to a letter sent to the University last week by the Office of the Attorney General (NMAG) threatening legal action if another meeting was not held.
The University responded earlier this week, stating it did not violate OMA, but would hold another meeting.
Both sides are saying this Board of Regents meeting is going to go differently this time.
When asked by the Daily Lobo what the administration is doing to prepare for Friday, Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said the department wants to more clearly communicate the factors going into the decision.
“We’re at this crossroad right now where we figure out again what is imperative for our department to move forward,” Nuñez said. “Making sure that we do everything we can to put all that on the table so everyone has a clear understanding why, or how, we got to our outcomes.”
The administration released at least nine documents yesterday, including a nearly 500-page report regarding UNM President Garnett Stokes and Nuñez’s joint plan to cut sports.
In that report the section “News Articles” included no newspaper articles, but instead press releases and internal memos from seven universities who had cut at least one sport from their respective athletic programs.
Criticism for the decision has been bipartisan. Both candidates for governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Steve Pearce, have expressed their displeasure in the Regent’s decision.
Pearce called it “bad management decisions” in an interview with Dan Boyd, an Albuquerque Journal reporter, while Lujan Grisham and Mayor of Albuquerque Tim Keller posted a social media video asking the Regents to postpone any decision before the next state legislative session in January.
Just earlier this month the City of Albuquerque announced the investment into a Division II professional soccer team to represent the Duke City.
In a press conference today Keller said he needed to weigh in on the University’s decision because athletics affects the greater community.
He said the Board of Regents needs to allow the community to step up, whether at the state or county level.
“I’ve heard that this was a ‘tough decision’ over and over again,” Keller said, punctuating his remarks with finger quotes. “And I understand that, but I am asking the Board of Regents to actually make the real tough decision, which is to say they need to take a do-over.”
Keller said the vote tomorrow needs to “buy our entire city, our county, our state time,” before the legislative session that’s five months away.
Joining the mayor was the new coach for United Soccer League team, city officials and State Representative Javier Martínez (D-Albuquerque).
UNM administrators have said they lobbied for additional funding at the legislature in previous years.
When asked regarding lobbying and the half-million dollar difference between state appropriations for the New Mexico State University Athletics program and UNM’s, Martínez said he “disagree(s)” with that statement.
“I have not seen, I have not heard UNM asking for money or otherwise because they’re going to cut sports,” Martínez said. “If they come for the appropriations process and they’ve asked for budget increases, I can tell you every agency in the state does that.”
Martínez said the legislature would be able to navigate complex fiscal and federal issues including Title IX considerations.
The Associated Students of UNM President Becka Myers said conversations before the NMAG’s letter were about moving forward, and discussing the “issues they had with the process” of cutting four sports.
Since the letter, she said OMA violations were not the only concern that needs to be addressed in the decision-making process — most concerning to her is the lack of student voices.
“The students weren’t the reason for this decade-long financial mismanagement,” Myers said. “In a lot of ways students do feel the direct effects and consequences of the decisions that have been made by the governance of this university.”
Danielle Prokop is the multimedia editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.