Times are changing for Lobo athletics.
Not only in the stands, but on the books.
For the first time in several years, and after heavy media and Board of Regents scrutiny, the University of New Mexico’s athletics department has reined in significantly its ticket revenue projections for the upcoming fiscal year for its top drawing sports of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
That total three-sport projection for the 2018-19 sports season/fiscal year of $5.4 million is more than $1 million less than projected one year ago. It is also about $2 million less than the department was projecting for both the 2016-17 and 2015-16 fiscal/sports years.
The problem with those three years of projections was Lobo fans weren’t coming close to showing up at games enough to make them a reality. UNM missed its inflated projections in its three high profile sports in the past three fiscal years by a total of $3.4 million ($837,804 this fiscal year; $1.7 million in FY 17; and $846,322 in FY 16).
Such discrepancies have only added to the continued missed budgets for the embattled department. UNM athletics has failed to make budget in eight of the past 10 fiscal years and is projecting another shortfall in the current fiscal year 2018 that ends June 30.
“I think people were just optimistic. And overly optimistic,” UNM President Garnett Stokes said on Wednesday about the habit of over-projections.
“But I also think that making these projections is really, really difficult.”
In November, when asked about the habit of overprojecting ticket revenues despite historical data seemingly making clear the department wouldn’t hit them, first-year athletic director Eddie Nuñez said budgets being compiled under his leadership moving forward would be based more on reality than optimism.
“First of all, we’re going to look a lot more into history – the historical data – and we’re going to gauge fan interest and everything else when we make our projections,” he said in November.
On Wednesday, in discussing the much more reined in projections, he added that the ticket revenue problem is one that not only hits UNM, but every college – and it is time to start having that reflected in the department’s budgeting.
“What we all realize, for our fans here, and everywhere, it’s a different era,” Nuñez said. “There’s other things vying for your money. There’s other reasons people don’t want to go (to games).”
According to data provided this week to the Board of Regents, which approved the department’s budget proposal on Tuesday that includes drastic cost-cutting measures, UNM is projecting football ticket revenue of $1.2 million this coming fall for the Lobos’ six home games; $3.8 million for men’s basketball; and $375,000 for women’s basketball.
For football, which won’t have the benefit of the big gate draw this season from instate rival New Mexico State, that is a $700,000 drop in the $1.9 million projection from one year ago (when football actually drew revenue of $1.5 million).
For men’s basketball, which projected $4.2 million for the 2017-18 season but brought in just $3.7 million, the projection for next season has been brought down to $3.8 million. That’s a significant drop from the 2016 fiscal year projection of $5 million.
The Lobo women’s basketball team actually passed its target this past season – bringing in nearly $400,000 when projecting $330,000. For next season, UNM is projecting sales of $375,000.
None of the projections will have an impact on the coming season for the operating budgets of any of the three sports, Nuñez said, but could moving forward.
While the other sports at UNM aren’t expected to be big money makers from ticket revenue, they all have projections and actuals on their budget lines, too.
Baseball and men’s soccer are projected for next fiscal year to generate $30,000 apiece in ticket revenues.
Men’s soccer hit $26,000 this past season, and baseball is now projected to finish at $24,000.