Atomic City Update: Cutting UNM sports hurts the athletes more than anyone

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By Phil Scherer

Over the past week, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the recent sports cuts at University of New Mexico, trying to think about it from the perspective of the students. For months, we have heard from coaches and parents about what these cuts will do to them, and we have listened to the administration explain their reasoning for making these decisions. 

But, somehow, I think we have forgotten about the people that this will affect more than anyone: the student-athletes. More so than anyone else, this represents a major life event, one that none of them saw coming. In less than a year, the program they have dedicated their lives to will no longer exist. Sure, some of them will be able to transfer schools and pick up where they left off. But that will not be an option for everyone. 

Sure, UNM has promised to honor the scholarships of the student-athletes who lose their sports, but that will be a small consolation prize. I have tried to put myself in the shoes of a men’s soccer player, skier or beach volleyball player at UNM, and when I thought about it from that perspective, it’s scary. 

The closest I can come to understanding the pain they are feeling is to relate it to my own college experience. When I was in college, the student newspaper became my identity. I spent nearly all of my free time in the newsroom, worked in the newsroom for 12 hours every Sunday and nearly all of my friends shared this common interest. I would have been lost in college if I didn’t have the newspaper to pour all of my effort into. 

If, while I was in college, the university had decided to completely destroy its journalism program, leaving me without a job at the newspaper, I can assure you that being told my scholarship would be honored would not have been a good enough consolation prize. 

I would not have had a clue what to do with myself. Suddenly, countless hours every week would have been left empty. I imagine that’s how many of these athletes at UNM are feeling right about now. They are facing the very real possibility of being left without an identity at their school, and facing the prospect that all of the friends they have made over the years will be scattered at different universities across the country. 

I know that the decision to cut four sports at UNM was made on the basis of money, which is unfortunate. No matter what sports were cut, the pain would have been the same because the effect on these kids’ lives would have been the same. As someone who has been through the college experience, I hope that all of these athletes are granted another opportunity somewhere else, because they deserve it. None of them did anything to cause this unique situation. Every single one of them is just a poor, unfortunate victim of circumstance.