UNM able to host NIT games, now that PBR is in May

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – After renegotiating a longtime contract that for years had prevented the UNM Lobos men’s and women’s basketball teams from hosting postseason games in the Pit, Dreamstyle Arena will be open for hoops again next week.

No bulls.

In November, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez signed an amendment to a multi-year facilities usage contract with Professional Bull Riders, LLC, to move what had been an annual mid-March stop in the Pit for the professional rodeo circuit to late May this year.

This still causes plenty of work for UNM getting dirt, bulls and cowboys in and out of the Pit in between graduation ceremonies and spring sport high school state championships in and around the Pit, but that is now May’s problem, not March’s.

The big news for Lobo hoops fans is that officially cleared the way for UNM to again host post-Mountain West tournament events, such as the Women’s NIT. UNM head coach Mike Bradbury is confident his team will be invited to play when the invitations are formally extended early next week.

Monday night, after his No. 2 seeded Lobos were upset in the Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals by No. 7 San Diego State, Bradbury interjected during a postgame press conference after one of his players was asked something about finishing the season.

“This is definitely not our last game,” Bradbury said. “… We’re not one of the teams that comes to the conference tournament and it ends.”

Nuñez told the Journal this week that UNM has formally entered a bid to host a WNIT game, or preferably multiple games, which on the women’s side of the sport still gives preferential treatment to programs like UNM who draw good home crowds (UNM’s average home attendance of 5,375 per game ranked No. 17 in the country this season and its total attendance of 91,374 in 17 regular-season games ranked No. 13).

When asked about the possibility of the Lobos men’s team participating in a pay-to-play postseason tournament that has a possibility of generating revenue if the Lobos get a home game, Nuñez in a text wrote, “You never say never.”

As for the the renegotiated contract, which was provided to the Journal by associate athletic director Ed Manzanares, the financial terms remain largely the same, though UNM, which shares ticket sale revenue, is on the hook to pay the PBR anything short of $865,000 in ticket sales. That figure ranged from $700,000 to $850,000 for past PBR events.

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