Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
UNM Athletics will spend roughly $70,000 this week for its football team’s stay in Las Vegas, Nevada to prepare for its game against Hawaii on Saturday, deputy athletic director Dave Williams said.
He said UNM Athletics is willing to spend that amount considering the payoff that comes after the season from Mountain West Conference distribution (by honoring TV contracts) – an estimate of at least $3 million – and payouts from the College Football Playoff and college bowl games – an estimate of at least $1 million, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said.
And even if the Lobos stay in Las Vegas beyond this week to practice and prep for the remaining five games on the 2020 schedule after Hawaii, the expenses are worth the revenue the football program can bring in for the entire athletic department, Nuñez said.
Earlier this year, UNM Athletics had its 10-year repayment plan for a $4.5 million deficit paid off from money the university makes in interest from the hundreds of millions of dollars it keeps in reserves, the Journal reported last week. The interest money is typically used for maintenance and other small capital projects, according to university officials.
UNM Athletics had accrued the multi-million dollar deficit over a decade in large part by overestimating its revenue in budgets and then overspending accordingly. It played a factor into the elimination of four sports: men’s soccer, women’s beach volleyball, and men’s and women’s skiing.
VIVA LAS VEGAS: UNM football moved its operations to Las Vegas to practice fully as a team since the COVID-19 concerns and public health orders won’t allow for them to prepare in Albuquerque. The Lobos would have had to quarantine for 14 days, per state orders, upon their return Saturday from the season opener at San Jose State. Aside from that, they are regulated to train in groups no larger than five.
UNM coach Danny Gonzales said the Lobos are scheduling an itinerary week by week. But potentially, they could stay in Las Vegas through November because the COVID-19 positive case numbers in Bernalillo County haven’t lowered to the point the state public health order will allow them to practice as a full squad.
UNM’s Nov. 14 game vs. Nevada was scheduled as a Lobos home game, but it has been relocated to UNM’s base – Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
UNM has games scheduled for Nov. 20 at Air Force and Nov. 26 at Utah State. That’s three more weeks on the road, and if that happens, UNM Athletics will have spent approximately $280,000 on the remote Las Vegas base and travel.
The Lobos end the season with two games set for, but unlikely to be played at, University Stadium – Dec. 5 against Wyoming and Dec. 12 vs. Fresno State.
In mapping out the Lobos’ course of action that led to practicing in Las Vegas, Nuñez says, the priority has been the health and safety of the student-athletes.
“If this one can’t be done,” he said. “The other two are not happening.”
The Lobos have shown to be safe recently. They were tested for COVID-19 on Sunday and on Tuesday. All results returned were negative, said Williams, who is in Las Vegas with the team. The players and staff were tested again on Thursday and are needing the same results in order to travel to Hawaii on Friday.
The team continues to be tested for the coronavirus three times per week, through Mountain West Conference protocol.
Eight UNM football players tested positive on Oct. 14, and one other player tested positive the next week, which shook up the team for its opener last Saturday at San Jose State.
Nuñez acknowledged the difference between the expenses of UNM football and the revenue generated from MWC distribution and CFP, college bowl money is greatly significant.
“We would love to do this in Albuquerque; we wouldn’t have all these expenses,” Williams said. “We need to keep our team together for their own mental health and for the good of the program. None of this would be done if we could not do it safely.”
BREAKING DOWN THE EXPENSES: When UNM Athletics searched for hotels in Las Vegas, it looked at all options, including rooms on the strip, Williams said. Those hotels offered cheaper prices, but it was too public of a place and could compromise the team’s bubble to interest UNM officials.
They then looked at off-the-strip casino hotels. Those hotels were charging high prices for conference room use and would not allow for food to come in from outside.
UNM found a better deal at Hilton Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, where it pays $99 per room, and needed near 100 rooms. That comes to roughly $11,000 per day.
As for food, UNM already pays for breakfast and lunch daily for the student-athletes. While in Las Vegas, it needed to add more expense for dinner.
For breakfast, it typically costs $6-$7 to feed each person, Williams said.
For lunch, it’s about $8-$10 per person, and for dinner it’s about $12-$15 per person
They don’t usually eat at the hotel for its catered boxed meals because those are the most expensive. They instead seek local restaurants or sponsors.
Rex’s Hamburgers employees in Albuquerque traveled to Las Vegas this week to help feed the Lobos, Williams said.
Overall, the tab for food is about $3,000 to $4,000 per day, Williams said.
UNLV is charging UNM $400 per day to practice Sam Boyd Stadium. They had the day off on Tuesday for Election Day.
UNM spends $1,800 per day for two buses – $900 per bus – to shuttle the Lobos to Sam Boyd Stadium for practice. The team normally would use four buses. Instead it’s asking two buses to double up on the trips.
“We’ve been minimalists out here,” Williams said. “We brought as few people as we possibly could. We have two academic advisers who are with us to make sure our student-athletes stay on top of it in the classroom, because that’s the most important thing they could be doing. Our coaching staff has been incredible about being flexible and adjusting to our new surroundings. The athletic training staff has been unbelievable.”
UNM Athletics is discussing with San Jose State athletics administration to share some of the money the Spartans saved after avoiding travel costs because last week’s game was relocated from Albuquerque to San Jose.
San Jose State would have spent roughly $120,000 on the travel, Williams said, $100,000 on a charter flight and $20,000 on food.
The Spartans ended up spending about $60,000 on their game day against the Lobos.
UNM and SJSU are discussing the percentages of sharing the difference of roughly $60,000, Williams said.