Poor Eddie Nunez. Eddie Nunez had been, for 14 years, an assistant athletic director at a big time sports school…the Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, a.k.a. LSU. A lot of people saw him as a future AD. Then he got an offer he didn’t refuse from the University of New Mexico, A second-tier Division 1 sports school, with a pretty good reputation.
Poor Eddie Nunez. Within months of his arrival in Albuquerque, the reputation of UNM’s Athletic Department under Paul Krebs started to disintegrate. It turned out, the athletic department had busted its budget 8 years out of 10, in part by consistently overestimating ticket sales for football and basketball and over-spending on everything from coaches’ salaries to donors’ junkets.
Somehow nobody noticed till after poor Eddie Nunez walked in the door, and now because of a $4.7 million budget deficit and violations of the Federal Title IX rules that sports spending and playing opportunities should be roughly equal for male and female students, Nunez has seen his budget for next year cut by almost $2 Million, and the dead certainty he will have to cut some sports, including, quite possibly football.
Not only is football, by far, the most expensive component of UNM’s athletic program, it generates relatively little income, especially compared to men’s basketball, the one remaining money-maker among UNM sports teams. Worse yet, its 85 scholarships and $8.3 million budget, if taken off the table, would leave the school’s title IX standards closer to the acceptable norm.
There are other considerations, including the prestige and publicity football can bring UNM, even though, for the most part, it has done neither.
But, do you think Nunez would have come to New Mexico if he thought there was a chance he’d have no football team? Poor Eddie Nunez.
There is this. All the bad stuff happened before Nunez arrived. None of it, and none of the cover-ups that helped sustain this mess are his responsibility. Lucky Eddie Nunez: he has a free hand, and a new University President, and next year will have a new Board of Regents appointed by a new Governor. And, if together, they can change the way athletics Is done at UNM, everyone will get credit, but Eddie Nunez will get the lion’s share. Lucky Eddie Nunez.
Daniel Libit is a journalist based in Chicago, where he writes about national politics for CNBC.com. He previously was a contributing writer to National Journal and a staff reporter for The Daily and POLITICO. In addition, he has tackled a wide expanse of subject matter, from college basketball scandals to panda reproductivity, for publications that include the New York Times, Washington Post magazine, the New Republic and the Columbia Journalism Review. Daniel also runs the online news website, nmfishbowl.com, which watchdogs the activities of the University of New Mexico and especially its Department of Athletics.