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Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Bob Davie will have plenty to cheer about when the Lobos play the University of Southern California Trojans next year.
That’s because revenue from “guaranteed games” such as the one against USC will be used to cover the $825,000 the University of New Mexico will pay football coach Bob Davie over the next 30 months to go away two years before his contract expires.
The deal was disclosed during Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting, after a nearly two-hour executive session. UNM President Garnett Stokes said she signed off on the agreement, which calls for the athletic department to use revenue from future games in which UNM is paid a set fee to face a top-ranked team in need of opponents. This year, the Lobos traveled to South Bend, Indiana for a 66-14 drubbing by the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a game that earned UNM $1.1 million.
UNM said on Nov. 25 that Davie and the school had “mutually agreed to part ways.” Davie, at a subsequent news conference, would not say whether the decision for him to step down was indeed mutual.
Davie coached the Lobos for eight seasons, amassing a 35-64 record, including records of 3-9, 3-9 and 2-10 in the past three seasons. His tenure included a victory in the New Mexico Bowl in 2016. It also included a suspension in 2018 linked to a case that was part of a now-settled lawsuit brought by a woman who alleged the university didn’t properly handle an investigation after she reported she was raped by a former Lobo football player.
Buyouts are nothing new for UNM. Indeed, the athletic department has paid out more than $2 million to part ways with coaches in recent years. That amount doesn’t include the Davie deal.
Funds from football
The terms of the most recent buyout put the burden of paying off Davie on an already cash-strapped athletic department, which operates on a $32 million budget. The buyout, which will involve making monthly payment to Davie for 30 months, will begin in January, said athletic director Eddie Nuñez.
Davie has an annual base salary of $422,690. His total compensation package is about $823,690 with incentives.
The $825,000 closely reflects his base salary for the two years remaining on his contract. Nuñez said the amount was reached in negotiations.
Nuñez said he wanted the buyout money to come from the football program.
For next year’s guaranteed games, the Lobos will go on the road against USC and Mississippi State, and each trip will earn UNM about $1 million.
Nuñez said he also negotiated a deal to get $250,000 upfront from Oklahoma University for a $1.6 million game against the Sooners in 2026. That payment also will be used on Davie’s buyout, he said.
“I made a decision … to (have) football take care of football. I’m not asking the rest of the athletics department to find ways (to pay for Davie’s buyout),” Nuñez said. “All our other coaches and other teams are doing what they have to do.”
Stokes said she supported the plan.
“I was pleased with Eddie’s work to basically acquire the financial support to cover the cost of that buyout over a 30-month period,” Stokes said in an interview. “It seemed like a very reasonable way to be able to move forward with the football program. Eddie has found a mechanism to bring in revenues associated with future contracts that will completely cover the cost of the agreement with the coach.”
Nuñez announced the details of the buyout during a news conference in Scholes Hall while the regents meeting continued behind closed doors. A few minutes into his announcement, the regents opened the doors and finished their regular meeting. They did not take any action on the buyout, saying the matter was up to Nuñez and other administrators.
Regent policy requires a Board of Regents vote to approve settlements over $400,000, but UNM officials said that applies only to lawsuit settlements, not a settlement linked to a contract like Davie’s.
“As I understand it, it’s not required (to have regents vote to approve the buyout), and the regents have no authority to approve a decision to live up to a contract,” Regent Rob Schwartz said. “If there already is an agreement in a contract, then we are bound by that contract. That was legal counsel’s opinion.”
Doug Brown, president of the Board of Regents, said regents were aware before Tuesday’s meeting that the deal would cost the university around $825,000, because Davie’s contract is a public record.
Were regents told during the season that the university was preparing to part with Davie?
“We’ve been going to the football games,” Brown said. “I mean, I think it was plain that the record was not one of success.”
Nuñez had declined to provide the amount of the buyout until the regents met Tuesday.
Terminating Davie’s contract early creates a situation in which UNM essentially will be paying the salaries of two head football coaches: the next coach, once one is tapped, plus Davie’s salary, which is included in this year’s operating budget. And the department’s budget is already tight.
The university has been working to address the department’s long-standing financial problems, which include paying back the university for overspending in the past and staying within budget in the future.
The department is facing a 10-year, $4.7 million deficit-reduction plan because the department repeatedly failed to spend within its allotted budget.
In 2018, regents, acting on the advice of Stokes and other university officials, voted to cut four sports including men’s soccer in an effort to curb spending and comply with Title IX requirements.
During Tuesday’s Board of Regents meeting, regents heard an update on the athletic department’s finances for the first quarter of the current fiscal year. The budget documents show that July-September revenue from state appropriations, facilities revenue, merchandise, naming rights and special events was up compared with the first quarter of last year. But there were decreases in student fees, multimedia rights and fundraising revenue.
The budget documents show that during the first quarter, the athletic department didn’t make any payments to the rest of the university as part of the deficit-reduction plan, which is budgeted to be about $487,000 this fiscal year, according to university budget documents. But Nuñez told regents the department plans to pay off that amount this year.
Partly because the university made changes to how it collects ticket revenue for basketball and football games, Nuñez said, it won’t be entirely clear how well the department is staying within its budget until the end of the second quarter, at the end of this month. The second quarter will include much of the ticket revenue for the football season.
Included in the second-quarter revenue period is the $1.1 million that UNM will collect from its game against Notre Dame. That revenue was used to balance that athletic department’s $32 million operating budget for the current fiscal year.
“As much as you can say that, at the end of the first quarter we are trending in the right direction,” Nuñez said.
Journal assistant sports dditor Steve Virgen contributed to this report.