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UNM athletics still budgeting with optimism despite track record

Data compiled via open records request through UNM Athletics.

University of New Mexico athletics has projected ticket revenue for the current 2017-18 fiscal year that it didn’t come close to reaching this past season.

And this comes after the recent retirement of its athletic director, the launch of two state investigations related to the possible fiscal mismanagement and the reality of failing to balance eight of the department’s past 10 budgets.

In fact, UNM has budgeted to spend about $1 million more from ticket sales this year than it actually brought in last year from its three revenue generating sports of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

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The three revenue generating sports brought in $5,480,501 in ticket revenue last season, which was $1.7 million off of budgeted projections. While it scaled this year’s projections back some, the department is still banking on making $6,430,000 in ticket sales this year in those three sports.

UNM is predicting it will bring in $1.9 million at the gate this fall for football after it brought in $1.2 million during the 2016 football season.

Reaching the $1.9 million would mark the first time the program has done so since the 2008 season.

In May, deputy athletic director Brad Hutchins told the Board of Regents that, after two consecutive bowl appearances and a nine-win season in 2016, the department was confident in that projection.

Yet in August 2016 when the Journal asked about the same topic — overly optimistic budgeting for football ticket sales — after the department posted a $1.54 million deficit, former athletic director Paul Krebs, former UNM President Robert G. Frank and Regent Marron Lee each said things were going to be fine because the football team was coming off a successful 2015 season. Lee even suggested there could be consequences if projections weren’t met.

“I’d say it’s optimism with accountability,” Lee told the Journal on Aug. 1, 2016, of last year’s athletics department budget.

UNM posted a $200,000 athletics deficit this past 2016-17 fiscal year.

Earlier this month, UNM Interim President Chaouki Abdallah said athletics is expected to balance its budget, but acknowledged it is sometimes more of a challenge in athletics to do so than other departments.

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“Potential contributing factors,” Abdallah said on Aug. 8, “may include optimistic estimates of attendance and revenues.”

Added on the same day by Chris Vallejos, the UNM Vice President who has been assigned to oversee the fiscal cleanup of athletics, “our budget methodology has to change.”

The Journal requested UNM’s current fiscal year budget summary Aug. 7 in an Inspection of Public Records Act request. The university did not release the one-page document that has been complete for at least two months until late Friday, two days after their statutory deadline to release the document by law. The Journal is still waiting for a response as to why UNM could not provide the document within the legally required time frame.

In releasing the document Friday, two days after saying it needed an extension to complete the request but not stating why, UNM wrote: “This original budget is subject to change over the coming months, relative to the ongoing audits and along with the detailed analysis currently underway.”

Men’s basketball reduced by $600,000 its ticket projections for the coming season, banking on bringing in $4.2 million under first-year head coach Paul Weir. It brought in $3.9 million this past season after projecting $4.8 million.

Women’s basketball adjusted projections closest to what the team actually made last year, budgeting for $330,000 this coming season after posting $317,565 last season.

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