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Atomic City Update: Title IX violations a bad start to an important summer for UNM

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By Phil Scherer

More than any year before, this summer will determine the future of University of New Mexico athletics, for better or worse. Due to a mountain of debt accumulated under the previous school and athletic administrations, drastic measures will be taken, including the elimination of one or more sports, to be announced July 1 or earlier. 

The first step in that process was a Title IX assessment of the school’s athletic department, released last week. The assessment showed a variety of serious problems that need to be addressed, something that won’t be easy at all with the financial troubles facing the school.

Among the top problems are the disparity between athletic opportunities for men and women and the difference in locker rooms and training facilities between men and women’s sports. 

To me, the most disturbing thing to come out of the Title IX assessment was the description of how the softball locker room differs from the baseball locker room, as well as the conditions that the volleyball teams are forced to endure. 

While the baseball facilities were described as “excellent,” the softball facilities are “too small,” with freshmen sharing lockers. There is also no team lounge or training room and no TV, and is “not comparable to baseball.”

The volleyball facilities have not been renovated in 12 years. According to the assessment, the facilities are “not cleaned,” and have roaches, rats and mold. Also, the showers have no hot water and the drainage is poor. 

That doesn’t sound like a facility any Division I athlete would be excited about, and it is shared by both the indoor and beach volleyball teams. 

In addition to the poor facilities on campus, the beach volleyball team also has less than ideal facilities to play on. Instead of playing on campus, the team instead plays outside of a bowling alley/bar and grill, where participants have complained about cleanliness, with needles and beer caps mentioned specifically as things they have encountered on the courts in the past. 

The assessment said that a new on-campus facility would be needed for the university to comply with standards in place, a facility that UNM cannot afford, costing more than $1 million. 

With all that said, it seems that beach volleyball, the school’s newest varsity sport, could become one of the casualties of the cuts to be announced later this month. 

The other problem was the disparity of athletic opportunities for men and women at the university. Although there are currently two more women’s sports, 12 to 10, there are far fewer female athletes at the school than male athletes, 317 men to 247 women, despite more than 55 percent of the undergraduate students at UNM being women. This 11.6 percent disparity is a serious problem for Title IX compliance and is due in large part to the football team, which has 110 players. Despite having more teams, none of the women’s teams have more than 36 players on their rosters, with the most coming from the women’s soccer team. Baseball and softball, which are often compared in this conversation, struggle to remain equal, with 36 baseball players compared to 22 softball players. 

The assessment called the disparity in athletes at the school, “significant,” and was one of the main reasons the university did not pass its assessment. 

There are a lot of issues plaguing this university, more than have even popped up to the surface at this point. This will be the summer that defines the university for years to come, for better or for worse. There will be a lot of unhappy people when sports cuts are announced, with men’s soccer, beach volleyball and others among the most likely. 

This is a no-win situation for the Lobos, and will likely take years to fully recover. But if the right steps are taken this summer, perhaps UNM will be able to return to some ort of normalcy in the not-so-distant future.