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Lobo Football: Bob Davie steps aside for Notre Dame game; Saga Tuitele named UNM acting head coach

Bob Davie receives the well wishes of University of New Mexico football players during a team meeting on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Davie, the UNM head football coach, had been away from the team since experiencing “a serious medical incident,” per the university, after the Lobos’ 39-31 home win over Sam Houston State on Aug. 31. (UNM contributed photo)

University of New Mexico football head coach Bob Davie, a former Notre Dame head coach, will not make the trip with the Lobos to South Bend, Ind., for their Sept. 14 game, he said in a statement provided by the school on Thursday morning. Offensive line coach Saga Tuitele will serve as the acting head coach for that game.

Davie said he made the decision not to coach the Notre Dame game after receiving advice from his doctors and his wife, Joanne. He wanted to announce it now so the “team and coaching staff could go into the weekend with clarity and consistency.”

Davie experienced an unspecified  “serious medical incident” per athletic director Eddie Nuñez, and was hospitalized on Saturday night following UNM’s season-opening 39-31 win over Sam Houston State at Dreamstyle Stadium. He hasn’t presided over Lobo practices this week, but he stepped in on a team meeting Thursday.

Davie said he will be around next week and involved. He won’t be at practices, but will be involved in the day-to-day plans and game-planning, said Frank Mercogliano, UNM assistant athletic director of communications.

Mercogliano said the advice of doctors will determine when Davie returns at full speed. The Lobos will not practice Friday and Saturday as they are idle this week.

“My doctors have said that with no setbacks I can expect a full recovery with no limitations,” Davie said. “I have great confidence in our staff and this gives us our best chance for success and limits the distractions.”

Davie, who was the head coach at Notre Dame 1997-2001, was seen several times clutching his torso while on the sidelines during the Sam Houston State game. Following the game, he  had left the field and was preparing for a postgame press conference, but instead was rushed to the hospital after experiencing chest pains, the Journal learned.

On Sunday, Davie thanked UNM’s training room staff, first responders and UNM Hospital in a statement, adding, “it is impossible to fully express our gratitude for your swift and professional efforts during a critical time.”

In the statement, Nuñez  asked the media to respect Davie’s privacy, “until he is able to return to the sidelines.” But Davie is scheduled to meet with the media at his regular weekly press conference on Tuesday.

“We are very grateful that Coach Davie had an opportunity today to briefly visit with his team and coaches,” Nuñez said. “I know they appreciated being able to see him and visit with him.”

Davie, who will be 65 on Sept. 30, is in his eighth season with the Lobos and is under contract through Dec. 31, 2021. Before UNM, he worked at ESPN for 10 years. He has been a college football coach for 32 seasons, including eight years at Notre Dame as the head coach and defensive coordinator. He is 34-54 at UNM after going 35-25 at Notre Dame and owns a 69-79 overall record as a head coach.

Bob Davie greets University of New Mexico football players during a team meeting on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. Davie, the UNM head football coach, had been away from the team since experiencing “a serious medical incident,” per the university, after the Lobos’ 39-31 home win over Sam Houston State on Aug. 31. (UNM contributed photo)

Before this season, Davie expressed excitement and said he was motivated to lead a Lobos turnaround after back-to-back 3-9 seasons that followed two straight appearances in the New Mexico Bowl, the latter a victory.

Tuitele will also be in charge of game management, Davie said in his statement, while Joe Dailey, Jordan Peterson and Perry Eliano will continue to handle offense, defense, and special teams, respectively. Davie has mostly worked with the defense and special teams.

The offensive line has been considered the Lobos’ strongest position group during the past offseason.

Saga Tuitele

Tuitele, 39, is in his fourth season as UNM’s run game coordinator and offensive line coach.

In Tuitele’s first season, 2015, the Lobos’ run game set school records and averaged 350 yards per game, No. 1 in the nation. UNM also had two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in school history in Teriyon Gipson and Tyrone Owens.

Before UNM, Tuitele served as the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo.

Davie’s son, Clay, continues as the Lobos’ tight end coach. Clay Davie has been at practices during this week.

He posted photos of his father’s visit at UNM on Twitter.

“All of us are so thankful to have Coach Davie back in team meeting today!” Clay Davie said on Twitter. “Coach is on the recovery and we are grateful for UNMH, our training room staff and doctors! #GoLobos”

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