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The University of New Mexico football team will stay at a hotel the night before its six home games this season after it passed on doing so for the 2018 season as a cost-cutting measure, athletic director Eddie Nuñez said on Wednesday.
UNM coach Bob Davie recommended to UNM athletics administration a return to having his team stay at a hotel the night before home games this season for several reasons, including the safety of his players.
About a week after UNM baseball player Jackson Weller was fatally shot outside a Nob Hill club early May 4, Davie says he spoke to Nuñez and deputy athletic director Dave Williams about having his team stay at a hotel the night before home games as the Lobos had done in the past.
Davie said he told them: “Not that we can have all 110 kids at the hotel; we only take the travel team (up to 70 players). But that is a dangerous, dangerous thing to be not keeping a college football team in a hotel the night before a game.”
Davie and Nuñez said the logistics of game-day activities, which include meetings and at least one meal, were the primary reason for having the football team stay at a hotel the night before home games in previous seasons.
Nuñez insisted that the decision to return to the practice of staying at a hotel the night before a game is being “done for logistical reasons and financial reasons.
“Overall, everything was considered from top to bottom.”
UNM will find other ways to save money to make up for spending on the team’s six overnight stays at the Sheraton Albuquerque Airport Hotel, said Nuñez. But he would not provide specifics on other savings when asked for the details.
Having the UNM football players drive to the practice facility for meetings, drive back home, then drive to a dining hall for a team meal proved challenging on days of home games, Davie said.
The Lobos went 1-5 at home last year when they finished 3-9 overall. UNM compiled a 2-4 home record in 2017 and also finished 3-9.
On the day of last year’s season opener at home against Incarnate Word, UNM punter Tyson Dyer’s car broke down on Interstate 25, Davie said, offering an example of some of the challenges. Someone from the team had to go pick up Dyer, Davie said.
The UNM coach prefers to have the team together the night before home games and all at one place in the hours leading up to the contest. He stressed that is what most NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams do.
“We were being reckless,” Davie said. “We were putting people in harm’s way.”
In 2016, UNM spent $21,425.16 for the team’s hotel stay before its six home games. It was $93.97 per room, and the Lobos had 228 total rooms.
UNM has not provided information for how much it is spending this season for staying at the Sheraton Albuquerque Airport Hotel, or information for the money spent in 2017.
The UNM Athletics Department stayed within its budget of roughly $32 million last fiscal year, the Journal reported earlier this month.
That was a bit of an anomaly. The department didn’t stay within its budget eight times in 10 years, racking up nearly $5 million in debt that athletics is planning to pay back in increments.
“After assessing and evaluating this past year, we had challenges with game day trying to host and feed all our football players,” Nuñez said.
“We realized the savings, as good as it was, there were other costs we had to end up doing. … I don’t know if the decision was all based on safety. I think it’s more about the opportunity to have everyone in the same location so that we can check on them. They are getting the rest and we are having everybody in one location. They can feed the team and all be ready for the game. That is more of the driving force for this than safety.”