The University of New Mexico community is stuck in a waiting game regarding the Department of Athletics’ accumulated deficit after the Finance and Facilities Committee met Tuesday afternoon.
The nearly three-hour-long meeting held few answers to the athletic department’s full budget, a surprise reduced deficit and an inconclusive end date to resolving the multi-year shortfall.
Pressure has been placed upon the University by the state’s Higher Education Department to present a solution by May 1. If the deadline is not met, HED threatened intervention by either withholding state funding or rejecting UNM’s budget, jeopardizing $181 million in appropriations.
In front of the crowd, Regent President Doughty consulted University Counsel Elsa Kircher Cole regarding the decision. He then advanced the motion to the full Board of Regents meeting for a vote next Tuesday — without a positive or negative recommendation from the committee.
“I do believe we’ve done it in the past; I’m sure this is appropriate,” Doughty said. “I would recommend that we allow this measure to move forward, because we are on a deadline with HED, but I would recommend that this committee does not make a recommendation at this point until we have all the answers.”
Answers were in short supply regarding the shrinking of the estimated fiscal year 2018 budget deficit. In one month, it shrunk from $2 million — alongside the $1.3 existing deficit at the Budget Summit — to $818,703 presented to the regents Tuesday.
“It was $2 million, but now, you come in here today, and it’s down to $818,000,” Doughty said. “I’m very, very confused by that, and very concerned about that.”
The team explained that the revenues did not include game guarantees, which are also called play-for-pay games. In expenses, a $1.6 million decrease in Supplies/Services/Fees was “recategorized.” An additional $360,000 in grant and aid, which are scholarships for athletes, was accounted for twice. The regents are asking for a detailed explanation of the deficit reduction in the meeting next week.
Before the full BOR meeting next week, the athletic department was given an extensive laundry list of data they need to present:
- Learfield multimedia agreement to film games
- Ticket sales analysis since 2017
- Fundraising figures from fiscal year 2017-18
- Facility rentals, such as concerts held at the football field
- Mike Haggardy’s job description and future plans for facilities
- The Pit debt-transfer analysis
- The performance of the Athletics Department at a 5 percent vacancy
- Personnel expenses and line-item justifications
- Deficit analysis — explaining the decrease of fiscal year 2018 deficit from $2.2 million to $818,703 in one month
- A full budget outlining reserve funds of the athletics department encompassing their Operating budget, Public Services (I&G) and Internal Services budgets
President Garnett Stokes said some sports are definitely getting cut, although the specifics are still unclear.
She added that most of the changes could not be implemented until fiscal year 2020.
“Balancing this budget will not be possible without making some extremely tough decisions,” Stokes said.
She is directing recently appointed Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez to make a set of criteria to eliminate sports, with the decision as to which sports are chopped, being slated for July 1, 2018.
“We are better off supporting fewer sports and doing it well than stretching ourselves too thin and compromising the high-quality experience our student-athletes should expect from this institution,” Stokes said.
The plan also requested funding from the land sale of Mesa Del Sol, under the discretion of the regents. According to Stokes, the money has been previously used to fund baseball field renovations and the rebranding campaign at UNM. The team requested $1.7 million from this account.
“The $1.7 million figure was the amount the team determined necessary to balance the FY 2018-2019 budgets before instating the cost containments,” Blair said. “It’s a bridge. It’s what Athletics is going to have to pay down.”
The plan also asks for a non-recurring transfer from Main Campus of $641,000 to bridge the 2019 budget.
“I do not think it is realistic at this time to expect our athletics department to be fully self-sustaining without institutional support,” Stokes said.
In a press conference, the Daily Lobo asked Nuñez what exactly is getting cut in the sports program to make the $1.9 million budget requirement.
“It’s a combination,” Nuñez said. “It’s personal, it’s staff, it’s support groups, it’s expenses and revenues in regards to the teams — it’s a combination of all that.”
The chairwoman of the committee, BOR Vice President Marron Lee, made a quip regarding the miscalculation of $1 million below the fundraising mark set for 2018.
“Was there something else with LoboClub — a large dying off of donors?” Lee said.
Nuñez told the regents Lobo fans have qualms supporting the department after financial mismanagement.
“There’s been a lack of trust within our department, and a lot of our donors have expressed that discontent by not purchasing tickets,” Nuñez said.
Danielle Prokop is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ProkopDani.