University of New Mexico Vice President for Athletics Paul Krebs has announced that due to impending budget cuts and rising costs, UNM will reduce its sports programs from 22 to 20 with the decision to no longer sponsor the men’s and women’s ski programs. The decision will save the department approximately $600,000 per year in operating budget, scholarships and salaries.
“This is a very difficult decision to come to,” said Krebs. “The University of New Mexico, as well as our entire state, is in very tough and challenging economic times. This is truly a last resort for us. Taking away opportunities from our student-athletes is never good. The members of our ski teams have been tremendous student-athletes.”
Scholarships will be honored through undergraduate degree or exhausted eligibility for any student-athletes that wish to continue their education at UNM provided they remain eligible in accordance with UNM and NCAA rules. Lobo athletics will also assist any student-athlete wishing to transfer to another institution.
The discontinuance of skiing will give New Mexico nine sports for men and 11 sports for women. Current NCAA rules for Division I membership allow for as few as 16 sports.
The realities of competing in NCAA skiing are getting tougher. This past season there were only 32 NCAA men’s and women’s ski teams, and three other women’s ski teams for a total of 35. Of those, only 12 are full-fledged Division I institutions five of which compete in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association (RMISA). The league also has Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks (Nordic only).
Last year’s ski team, which finished seventh at the NCAA Championships, had 25 members — 14 on the men’s side and 11 on the women’s side. The program has two coaches and two volunteer assistant coaches.
“Other than the Air Force Academy, we have the most sports offered of any Mountain West school, and we offer more than most Pac-12 schools as well,” said Krebs. “We’ve looked at many options, and unfortunately our current model isn’t sustainable. You never want to cut sports, and you never want to limit opportunities, but at this time, this is the scenario that best helps our department in the long run.”
The ski program has been in existence as a varsity sport at New Mexico since 1970, and the sport has been an NCAA sanctioned one since the 1982-83 season. New Mexico last dropped sports in 1999, when wrestling, men’s gymnastics and men’s swimming were discontinued.
Update April 14 at 8:45 am ET: Since the announcement, a petition has been started to save the UNM ski team. In a heartfelt plea, the team is looking for community support to save them.
“Please help us by signing this petition to convince the UNM Board of Regents to uphold their support for our program and give future Lobos a chance to carry on the ski team’s tradition of excellence,” the team wrote.
The petition in its entirety can be found here.
Release from the University of New Mexico