LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico State University, along with the New Mexico State Athletics Department, announced Friday that equestrian will continue as a varsity sport for the 2016-2017 season. The funding, however, for future seasons has yet to be determined.
"Our students are incredibly important to us," NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers said. "As the university continues to be under enormous pressure to cut our budget by $12.1 million, we have spoken with our stakeholders repeatedly over the course of this process. However, we should have given more notice to our equestrian team. This final season will give them an opportunity to compete and to seek other opportunities if they choose. I have shared this decision with the chair of our Board of Regents and she concurs."
Earlier this week, NMSU announced it would immediately discontinue sponsorship of the equestrian team. The team will now be allowed to compete throughout the 2016-17 season and all scholarships for its current equestrian student-athletes will remain in place for the remainder of their eligibility.
“Our appeal before the Board of Regents was heard," said Sue Padilla, the National Collegiate Equestrian Association’s (NCEA) National Advisory Board (NAB) representative for NMSU. "This year gives us time to do everything possible to fund this program for future years.”
The initial decision to discontinue funding of the program was made after careful consideration following recent cuts to the university's budget due to declining state funding and declining enrollment. Other cuts include eliminating vacant and filled positions around the university, eliminating the on-campus employee health center and beginning the process to eliminate the engineering surveying program.
"The Athletics Department needs to cut its budget, much like the rest of the university, but we will be able to accommodate this final year of the program," NMSU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia said.
“I am confident that we are moving forward past the one-year extension given by the University”, stated Padilla. “We have identified multiple sources that are looking to help support the equestrian program financially and meetings are happening this week.”
Supporters of the NMSU equestrian program are seeking private funding to make the program self-sustaining. NMSU supports this approach as advocates to fund the program at a competitive level.
“We are committed to working with the staff and leadership at NMSU," said Dr. Leah Fiorentino, NCEA Executive Director. "The immediate support from the local community has been amazing. Collaborative efforts between the NCEA-NAB, and the equine community in New Mexico, combined with public support from the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) have provided early measures of success. And we will continue to work identify positive solutions for the NMSU equestrian student-athletes."