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UNM football ticket sales trending below target

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The University of New Mexico football team is not on pace to meet its ticket sales projections this year. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

After consistently inflating ticket revenue projections and then missing budget, the University of New Mexico Athletics Department this year dramatically downgraded its football sales forecast.

But the program is still not on pace to meet that target, according to new financial figures.

UNM budgeted this year expecting $1.2 million in football ticket sales – well below the $1.9 million and $2 million written into previous years’ budgets.

This year’s $1.2 million is lower than even the actual revenue last year ($1.54 million).

However, UNM has made just $323,610 through the first third of the Lobos’ home slate, according to the university’s newly released first-quarter financial figures. That’s 27 percent of the goal for a sport that for which attendance typically drops as the season progresses.

The number includes only part of the revenue from about 8,500 season tickets sold. That money is broken up and counted as each game is played.

The figure does not include the two most recent home games. But the team – now 3-6 on the season – played both of those in a mostly empty Dreamstyle Stadium. Head coach Bob Davie quipped after the last game, against San Diego State, that the number of fans who showed up could have been accommodated “on a couple of bleachers.”

UNM has two home games remaining: next Friday against Boise State and Nov. 24 versus Wyoming. UNM is billing the Boise State game as “Heroes Night” to celebrate first responders and military, which Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez said he hopes will drive additional interest.

But he acknowledged that the numbers “don’t look exactly like I want them to look,” and that it becomes increasingly hard to fill seats later in the year, citing factors such as weather and the start of basketball.

“Historically, games toward the November timeline have always been a little bit more of a challenge for us,” he said.

Athletics has not yet recalibrated its budget or spending to account for the possible season-end shortfall. Nuñez said that could be necessary eventually, but said the budget assessment is “ongoing.”

This year’s lowered projection followed criticism that athletics in the past made overly optimistic ticket forecasts so it could spend accordingly, only to see annual deficits pile up when the sales did not materialize.

Athletics’ repeated deficits have raised alarm bells inside and outside the university. It finished in the red eight times since fiscal year 2008, and last year would have been the ninth had regents not infused the department with an extra $2.1 million to fend off another shortfall.

The problems prompted the New Mexico Higher Education Department to put the university under enhanced fiscal oversight, and regents now require the department to give monthly budget updates. The department is expected to regularly monitor revenue and expenses and adjust as necessary to avoid deficits.

But Nuñez said it’s still early in the year – the books just closed on the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.

“This is the first opportunity we have to be able to assess where our tickets are,” he said this week. “We’ll continue to look at it as we go through every game that’s remaining.”

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