This article has been updated with additional comments from UNM student-athlete Brenna Egan.
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Skiing at the University of New Mexico (UNM) is officially alive again, at least for one more year, while the university and the ski team pursue viable long-term funding sources, school officials announced earlier on Thursday.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled meeting of the UNM Board of Regents Thursday afternoon, Acting President Chaouki T. Abdallah told the board that “several months ago” he had directed Paul Krebs, UNM vice president for athletics, to pursue cost-saving measures for the athletics department.
Those measures, Abdallah continued, included the recommendation to cut the school’s ski team that was initially announced on April 13. An outpouring of concern and support followed, including over 10,000 signatures on a petition and what ski team supporters said were over 36,000 unique site visits to www.saveunmskiteam.com.
Krebs received “relentless and in my opinion undeserved criticism for this decision,” Abdallah told the Board of Regents, according to FasterSkier’s transcription of his remarks from a video recording from the board meeting, “even though he was following University direction. This is actually unfortunate.”
But, Abdallah continued, “Substantial good has come from this decision, as those who care about this sport have pledged financial assistance for next year, which will allow us to explore long-term financial commitments. So today I am announcing that we will reinstate skiing for the next year while we seek those solutions. So I want to thank everybody who came together to help the university and to making sure that, at least for the coming year, we will have skiing, and we’re going to work together to try to put it on a long-term financial scale.”
Current UNM student-athletes are understandably pleased. “It just feels really awesome to see that my fellow teammates can focus on their athletic goals again,” senior skier Patrick Brachner wrote to FasterSkier earlier on Thursday. “Personally,” he continued, in response to the volume of community support, “I am very happy that the community has the ultimate power to overturn unjust decisions.”
Sophomore Brenna Egan echoed Brachner’s gratitude at the support their program had received. “We are so thankful for everything that has been done for our team,” Egan wrote to FasterSkier. “The show of support was astounding, from both our many supporters in New Mexico and the ski community. It has been really eye opening to realize how important skiing is to people, even in a community like Albuquerque. Honestly, we could not have done this alone.”
A press release from the students on the ski team contained slightly more detail about what happens next: “Effective immediately, the ski team will be reinstated for the 2017/2018 season. Donations from ski team supporters will supplement a somewhat-reduced Athletic Department budget for the ski team. Team coaches and supporters will be able to use the next year to establish a long-term funding mechanism to keep the team in place thereafter.”
UNM sports information director Frank Mercogliano was contacted a week ago today for comment on what long-term funding solutions for the ski team might entail. Mercogliano did not respond to this request for comment.
While the official UNM ski team website still leads with, “Lobos to discontinue men’s and women’s skiing,” ski team supporters have been more responsive. “REINSTATED!” read the main page at www.saveunmskiteam.com effective Thursday afternoon.
“We will be able to accept donations shortly,” supporters continue on this site. “Pledge your support now!”