ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico's flagship university is falling short of meeting some federal requirements aimed at ensuring men and women have equal opportunities when it comes to playing sports, according to an independent review made public Thursday.
The review comes as the University of New Mexico's athletics department struggles to get its spending under control. A multimillion-dollar running deficit that has built up over a decade is forcing school officials to weigh drastic cuts, including the possible elimination of some sports teams.
University President Garnett Stokes had warned earlier this year that tough choices would have to be made if the school wanted to avoid jeopardizing the future integrity of the entire athletics program.
She and Eddie Nunez, director of athletics, addressed the budget and the Title IX requirements in an open letter posted on the university's website. They asked for patience as the university looks for ways to "honorably and accountably" manage its way through its current challenges. They also acknowledged lingering concerns about the athletics department not complying with federal law.
"As we consider options to reverse our financial position, it is clear that we must also consider the impact our decisions will have on our Title IX compliance," they wrote. "We must do better in offering equal opportunities for men and women and achieve this while also reducing our financial deficit."
According to the review, women make up more than 55 percent of the undergraduate student body but less than 44 percent of student athletes. Other shortfalls related to scholarships and facilities were also identified.
Aside from the proportions of students and student athletes, other measures that ensure a university is meeting the federal mandates include evidence of a history of growth and continued expansion of opportunities for underrepresented groups.
The University of New Mexico has 22 varsity intercollegiate teams 10 for men and 12 for women. That is above the national average of 16 for Division I schools. Participation for the 2016-17 year included 317 men and 247 women.
According to the findings, the university will have to consider restructuring some sports and implementing a roster management plan based on national averages to maximize participation opportunities for women.
The recommendations call for leaving participation in football, basketball, baseball and softball relatively unchanged. Rosters for women's swimming and diving teams as well as the men's and women's track teams would shrink.
University officials offered no indications that any decisions have been made. They hope to have a plan ready to share with the public later this summer.
Stokes and Nunez also pledged to delay until summer 2019 the implementation of any decision that results in teams being eliminated and to honor all current scholarships through graduation.