ENMU athletics director updates board on reintroduction plans
June 28, 2020
PORTALES — Matt Billings has been the athletic director for Eastern New Mexico University for roughly five months. Less than two months into the job, he no longer had athletic events to oversee due to COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns.
Friday, he couldn’t guarantee when there would be athletic events again as he updated ENMU regents on plans to reintroduce student-athletes for the 2020-21 year.
“The first five months have been interesting; not really what I pictured,” said Billings. “What I walked into is a great group of coaches and student athletes, so I feel blessed in that instance. We don’t know what the fall is going to bring. We’re going to have to be fluid and roll with the punches.”
He spoke largely of the things he and the department could control, including voluntary workouts that would begin July 20. All student-athletes and athletics staff would be tested, and there are plans for daily temperature checks and online meetings with teams to discuss what he thinks should be a two-way street of expectations.
“It’s just as important for them to ask questions to us,” Billings said. “I want to make sure they and their parents have a chance to ask us questions and feel comfortable coming back to Portales.”
Regents, on state recommendations, have cut the athletics budget by 6% for the year. Billings said the college will delay implementation of a women’s golf program for at least one year, but he said he’ll be hard-pressed to trim a $4.4 million budget that is about one-fourth of most of its Lone Star Conference rivals.
“We’ve done a lot with a lot less,” Billings said. “The continuing chipping away of the budget, that’s a concern to me. I want to keep staff and I want to keep programs. A 6% cut, it makes everyone nervous. I think we’ve been very fiscally responsible, but (things we may have to consider) are big-ticket items. I don’t know what we’re going to do at this point, to be honest.”
The LSC has lowered its required number of contests in many sports, and is looking at back-to-backs to save on travel budgets.
When asked about fundraising updates, Billings said it’s been a difficult task for three reasons. First, sponsors want fans in the seats to see their advertisements and there’s uncertainty on whether games will be played and if fans will be allowed. Second, social distancing has limited most donor interactions. Third, many of the university’s traditional partners may not have the disposable income they’ve had in years past.