Playing a Mountain West Conference football game at Hawaii, says UNM senior associate athletic director Tim Cass, is a win-win proposition.
A stipend paid by Hawaii to defray opposing league teams’ travel expenses makes it so.
Make that win-win-win, if the Lobos can beat the Warriors on Saturday in Honolulu.
Since 1955, an NCAA bylaw has allowed teams that play at Hawaii to schedule an extra game — partly as an opportunity to recoup travel expenses, partly as an incentive to help Hawaii fill out its schedule.
That’s why UNM was able to schedule 13 games this year, Cass said, instead of the normal NCAA Football Subdivision limit of 12.
Basketball games at Hawaii are also exempt. But Hawaii is a football-only member of the Mountain West.
Teams that play at Hawaii are not required to schedule an extra game. Of the four Mountain West schools that play at Hawaii this year, New Mexico and UNLV are playing 13 games. Boise State and Nevada are playing 12.
Cass said UNM did not debate about whether to schedule the extra game.
“We just felt that was in our best interests (competitively and financially),” he said.
No one game on the schedule, he said, constitutes the extra game.
“I guess it’s sort of a package deal with Texas and Southern,” he said.
The Lobos played at Texas on Sept. 8, losing 45-0 but taking home a $1 million guarantee. They opened the season at home against Southern, winning 66-21 and paying the Baton Rouge, La., school a guarantee of $350,000.
Cass said that, as a condition of admittance to the Mountain West for football, Hawaii is required to pay some of the freight for league opponents’ travel expenses — up to $175,000. The exact amount varies.
“We submit that to the conference, not to Hawaii,” he said.
Cass estimated that a road trip to Hawaii probably costs about $125,000 more than a trip to a destination like Austin, Texas.
“There’s the long flight, an extra night’s lodging, extra meals,” he said.
The Lobos will fly to Honolulu on a charter flight today, stopping for fuel in Los Angeles. They’ll repeat the process after the game Saturday night, arriving home late Sunday morning or early afternoon.
Some money is saved, Cass said, because of weight restrictions on flights across the Pacific.
“We’ll have to take fewer people,” he said. That means fewer hotel rooms and fewer meals.
This is the Lobos’ first Mountain West game against Hawaii, which entered the conference for football this fall.
New Mexico played in Honolulu 11 times from 1979-98 when both schools were members of the Western Athletic Conference, and four times before that in nonconference games.
Before Hawaii’s admittance to the Mountain West, Cass said, UNM had considered playing a nonconference game in Honolulu with no return match in Albuquerque.
After weighing the expenses involved against the guarantee — about half the amount UNM got from Texas last month — “We decided against it,” he said.