Dec. 8—Eddie Nuñez has an agreement to stick around for a while as the athletic director at the University of New Mexico.
And while the timing of recent rumors of his being a candidate to fill the same position at the University of Miami seemed convenient for one seeking a new deal with UNM, it turns out Nuñez and UNM President Garnett Stokes had already signed a new contract on Nov. 4 — long before the Miami rumors surfaced — to keep him overseeing Lobo athletics through June 2025.
According to Nuñez's new contract obtained earlier this week by the Journal — one UNM hadn't planned to announce publicly until it had an opportunity to update its Board of Regents members at a regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday — Nuñez now will be paid $420,000 per year ($360,000 in base salary and $60,000 in other compensation, not including potential bonuses) through June 30, 2025. The deal moves Nuñez up from one of the bottom three salaries in the 12-member Mountain West to seventh.
"The biggest thing for me is there's still a lot to do here," Nuñez said. "My expectation is to continue to compete for championships in all sports ... and continue to give our student-athletes the best experience possible in their time at UNM and represent the university in the best way possible."
He specifically noted there is an emphasis on getting football and men's basketball — each with recent head coaching hires made by Nuñez — to compete at a high level because, as he said, "our entire athletics budget is dependent on football and basketball success."
Stability in those two sports also provide a university with the best opportunity to be in a good position when conference realignment moves come every few years.
The department still has ongoing budget challenges, demanding fundraising requirements and it is still too early to judge the success of the department's multimedia rights shift a couple years ago away from Learfield Sports to new partner Outfront Media Sports — a partnership that got going as the 2020-21 sports/academic year forced some sports to be played out of state and others without fans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of which remain in play.
Hired Aug. 31, 2017, Nuñez was in the final year of a five-year deal. He will also formally be promoted to Vice President of Athletics, the same title held by his predecessor, but one Nuñez was not given when hired in the fall of 2017. Then, UNM interim President, Chaouki Abdallah opted not to give a vice president title to any new hire just prior to a new president being hired.
Nuñez's initial contract — $300,000 in base and $65,000 in other compensation — was set to expire in September 2022. The additional $55,000 in compensation plus any bonuses, which cap at $60,000 more, come from the President's budget pool, not from the athletic department budget, which remains highly scrutinized by media and regularly by the state's Higher Education Department.
Nuñez is allowed to divert any bonus pay for such things as academic achievements to employees in the department that played a large role in reaching those goals.
Should Nuñez leave before then end of his second contract year on June 30, 2023, he would owe UNM $250,000. That number drops to $100,000 in year three, and there is no buyout owed by Nuñez should he leave in the final year of his contract (July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2025).
Those buyout terms are reduced by 50% in the event Stokes, at any time during the length of Nuñez's contract, is no longer UNM's president.
If Nuñez is fired without cause, UNM owes him his remaining base salary.
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What's the deal
Highlights of UNM athletic Director Eddie Nuñez's new contract:
—Term: through June 30, 2025
—Bonus: up to $60,000
—New title: Vice President for Athletics
—Buyout: If he chooses to leave, he owes UNM $250,000 if before June 30, 2023; $100,000 if before June 30, 2024; zero in final year of contract
—If fired without cause: UNM owes him remaining of base salary
—In effect: Terms went into effect Nov. 1, contract signed Nov. 4
—Note: Hired in 2017, old contract was to expire in September 2022