On Thursday, the University of New Mexico announced it would be cutting its men’s and women’s ski programs, according to KRQE News 13, in an effort to reduce athletic operating costs and save the school roughly $600,000 in budget.
The announcement was made abruptly, taking many of the team’s athletes by surprise.
UNM head ski coach Fredrik Landstedt told the Daily Lobo that even his coaching staff was blindsided by the school’s decision to cut skiing, and that it has left the student athletes in a precarious situation.
“It’s pretty clear to me now that [the school’s administration] knew for a long time (they would be cutting skiing),” Landstedt told the newspaper. “It shows great disrespect to the student athletes. They either have to quit skiing and stay at UNM, or they have to quit UNM and go ski. They were not given a chance.”
However, members of the team aren’t taking the school’s decision to cut the program sitting down. Instead, they are rallying the skiing community to try to convince the university to reconsider its decision.
The ski team has started a Change.org petition aimed at getting the attention of the university’s Board of Regents.
“After firing UNM’s basketball coach earlier this month, UNM’s Athletic Director Paul Krebs has decided to discontinue the Women’s and Men’s Skiing program … To put things in perspective, only the replacement of UNM’s basketball coach during his existing contract will cost the athletic department far more than the yearly budget of Women’s and Men’s skiing combined,” the petition states. “This example is only the tip of the iceberg of ongoing financial mismanagement at the expense of student-athletes.”
The petition goes on to state that the UNM Ski Team has 17 Individual NCAA Championship Titles in its nearly 50-year history, and won the Overall NCAA Team Title in 2004, making it the single most successful athletic program in UNM’s history. In addition that claim, the petition states that the ski teams have set athletic department grade point average records in recent years.
Following the petition going live, it has gained the support of multiple members of the skiing community, including reigning world champion skier Mikaela Shiffrin:
It is so sad to see this news about UNM skiing. Can't believe their most successful athletic program would be cut! Ski racing has taught me passion, discipline, determination, work ethic… qualities that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Not to mention the friends I have made along the way on this incredible journey. Collegiate ski racing is essential in keeping the passion for our sport alive, and the athletes of UNM skiing need our help now to keep doing the sport they are most passionate about. Sign and share if you agree https://www.change.org/p/unm-board-of-regents-save-the-university-of-new-mexico-ski-team #savetheskiteam
Currently the petition has over 8,700 supporters. As reported by KRQE, the ski team’s coaching staff said their operating costs are closer to $250,000, refuting the athletic department’s claims it costs $600,000 to run the program.
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