Higher Ed Secretary tells UNM Athletics to pay up millions to university

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The New Mexico Higher Education Department, is telling the UNM Athletics Department to pay up.  The state agency claims the Athletics Department owes the university millions of dollars, and hasn’t been following through with paying back their debt.

The Athletic Department has struggled to stay out of the red, and News 13 has learned with less than a month before the season tips off, UNM has only sold 7,317 season tickets for Men’s Basketball. That’s down almost 1,500 from total sold for all of last season.

Now, the Higher Education Secretary confirms they owe the university $4.7 million.

“It’s kind of frustrating that that hasn’t been paid back,” said UNM student Hanna Boyer.

Students aren’t happy to hear about the Athletics Department’s debt, considering students pay over $4 million a year to UNM Athletics in fees alone.

“I feel like that money can be used in many different ways and not necessarily in athletics,” said student Kinsey Moores.

On October 3, the Secretary of the New Mexico Higher Education Department sent a letter to Interim President of UNM Chaouki Abdallah. The letter said the Athletics Department’s deficit has continued to grow and now they will be conducting additional fiscal oversight of the UNM Athletics Program.

“I think if they are using that money then they do need to pay it back eventually,” said Moores.

Abdallah responded to the secretary in a letter saying for years they’ve had a deficit reimbursement plan in place. The secretary replied, saying financial statements “do not seem to indicate such a plan being followed.”

Students said they’re thankful something is being done about money owed to their institution.

The Secretary of Higher Education is ordering a meeting with the UNM President, Regent President, the Vice President of Finance, and the Director of Athletics. A date for that meeting has not yet been set.

The New Mexico Higher Education Department sent the following letter to the University of New Mexico:

Dear President Abdallah,
Thank you for your letter dated October 6, 2017 regarding UNM’s placement on Enhanced Fiscal Oversight Program (EFOP), based on the Athletic Department budget. We are certain that the executive team and the Board of Regents take this matter as seriously as does the Department. While the University may in fact have a deficit reimbursement plan in place, the financial statements provided to the Department do not seem to indicate such a plan is being followed, as evidenced by the marked increase in the athletics budget deficit over the past several fiscal years.
Our staff has already begun working with your team to arrange a preliminary meeting to outline the EFOP procedure and review the University’s plans for reducing the budget deficit with the Athletics Department. That meeting would be the best place to articulate your concerns and for the time being, the Department will maintain its position of placing UNM Athletics under EFOP oversight.

Sincerely,

Barbara Damron, PhD, RN, FAAN
Cabinet Secretary
New Mexico Higher Education Department

The University of New Mexico sent the following response letter:

Dear Secretary  Damron,

I am in receipt of your letter dated October 3, 2017, in which you state the intent of the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED) to provide fiscal oversight via an Enhanced Fiscal Oversight Program (EFOP) for The University of New Mexico (UNM) Athletics Department.

I take the stated concerns of the NMHED seriously, as I do the overall financial health of UNM. The UNM Board of Regents is composed of seven members who are appointed by the Governor of New Mexico with the consent of the New Mexico Senate. These regents govern the university and provide fiduciary oversight for the assets and programs of the university. Executive Vice President David Harris and our new Athletics Director Eddie Nunez have been working diligently on internal reviews while the New Mexico State Auditor and UNM Internal Audit Office conduct their examinations. Furthermore, we do have in place, and have for several years, a deficit reimbursement pfan with the Athletics Department.

As always, I welcome increased communication between the NMHED and the university, but this may not be the best way to accomplish that. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to discussing this matter with you.

Best regards,

Chaouki Abdallah

Interim President

 

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