Following an outpouring of support from the local New Mexico and worldwide skiing community, the University of New Mexico’s Board of Regents voted today to overturn the Athletic Department’s recommendation to cut the UNM NCAA Division 1 Ski Team.
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.
In making their announcement to reinstate the team, Board of Regents members cited the fact that the UNM skiers excel athletically and academically. The team boasts the highest cumulative team GPAs at the university with a cumulative GPA of 3.92 for the women’s team and 3.60 for the men’s team. Board members were highly impressed with the student-athletes who spoke in support of the team at an April Board of Regents meeting, and later at a student-organized video press conference.
The ski team is one of only two UNM athletic programs to ever win an NCAA title, as NCAA Division 1 Ski Champions in 2004. The team has won NCAA team trophies 13 times, and has 17 individual NCAA champions.
In addition to the ski team’s own efforts, USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw engaged directly with the UNM president and Board of Regents as well as penning op-eds in support of the team that appeared in the Daily Lobo and Albuquerque Journal.
University of Colorado head ski coach Richard Rokos also voiced his support for the program and is hopeful that this situation will help prove the value of collegiate ski programs across the country.
“Losing New Mexico could have a snowball effect to take us all out,” Rokos said. “I think this one sent a pretty clear message that if we stay together, we will fight it together and support each other and that’s what helped us here. The (ski) programs, they are actually assets to athletic departments and the whole school in general,”
For the student-athletes, whose academic and athletic careers had been thrown into turmoil at the mid-April announcement of the plan to cut the team, today’s reversal is a lesson in perseverance. The athletes refused to simply accept what they felt to be a hasty and unfair decision, and instead mounted an outreach to the New Mexico tourism and skiing community as well as to supporters of collegiate skiing nationwide and worldwide.
A website www.SaveUNMSkiTeam.com was set up and has generated over 36,700 site visits to date. A Change.org petition to save the team generated over 10,500 signatures. Numerous pledges of financial support for the ski team have been made, and the local New Mexico ski and tourism industry has rallied behind the effort to save the team.
The student-athletes of the UNM ski team have demonstrated how excellence in skiing translates into excellence generally. As representatives of the state of New Mexico, their coaches and families, they are real-life examples of “New Mexico True”.
Release courtesy of the UNM Ski Team