Atomic City Update: Decision to cut sports nothing but a quick fix for UNM

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By Phil Scherer

When news came down Thursday afternoon that the University of New Mexico was officially eliminating men’s soccer, beach volleyball and both skiing teams, I had a feeling of disbelief and shock. 

Now, the news itself didn’t shock me. This has been the expected move for a few months now, ever since the idea of eliminating sports was brought up in April. But for some reason, I always thought the school would eventually see how illogical and unfair the move is. 

By cutting skiing and soccer, the university is letting go of two of its most successful national sports, teams that compete for championships every year and are highly respected.

Based on money alone, sure, these moves will help the university. But that seems to be a short sighted and narrow-minded view of things. In my opinion, this move gives UNM a black eye, and will set it back immensely in every sport. 

Last week, a parent of a UNM soccer player sent a letter to the media to give her perspective, and she brought up a great point. Her son, who will be a sophomore this year, was recruited to UNM with the expectation that he would have a team to play for throughout the duration of his college career. Less than two years later, the team does not exist and he may be forced to look for a new college home. 

There was no hint that this was coming, no way for any athlete or parent to predict it. As the parent said in their letter, “As parents it seems it would be a ridiculous notion to have to ask a coach for the financial reports of the athletic department before signing a scholarship commitment. Why would any university send out a coach to recruit kids for scholarship if that university could not uphold that scholarship offer?”

I imagine that thought will have an effect on every athlete thinking about attending UNM in the future. “What if my sport is cut next?” will be a valid concern, because the money troubles plaguing the Lobos will not just disappear now. 

If anything, this appears to be a quick fix, like putting a bandage on a broken bone. It may look like it will help, but in reality it just postpones the real solution. The athletic department has been in shambles for years, the victim of mismanagement. 

And I don’t think cutting relatively minor sports will fix that. Any money made back will inevitably be offset by the backlash in the community and the trust that is lost nationwide. 

Why should any athlete trust this university at this point? The message has been sent that winning is not the main priority. UNM only had a couple sports that were widely respected and successful. They made the decision to cut one of those sports, abandoning a program that gave the Lobos a positive name, a distraction from all of the mismanagement. 

The Lobo soccer program was idolized by the youth community in New Mexico, where soccer is the most widely participated sport. Now, those kids must look elsewhere for a source of inspiration.

There is no doubt this is a sad day for the Lobo community. The message that has been sent is that success doesn’t matter, and only money matters. Football can’t be cut, because they have a large media contract and a stadium to fill. Basketball can’t be cut for the same reason. Money talks.

So instead, it’s men’s soccer that gets the axe, a national contender year in and year out. At least now we all know where the priorities lie, not that there was ever much of a doubt.