ISLETA PUEBLO — Here’s a sad and daunting fact regarding University of New Mexico football: The Lobos haven’t had a winning record over the course of a decade since the 1930s.
No Lobos from the ’30s participated in first-year coach Bob Davie’s inaugural alumni outing Friday at Isleta Eagle Golf Club. Still, about 75 former players, representing at least seven decades of UNM football, did attend.
Such events are nothing new; former coach Mike Locksley had an alumni barbecue each year after spring practice. But, after Locksley’s disastrous tenure and amid Davie’s effort to jump-start a program that has won a total of three games the past three seasons, the new coach said this gathering held extra significance.
“Let’s start the tradition of what former players expect from the current players,” Davie said. “That’s really what this is about.”
For their part, former players from each of those seven decades said they remain invested in the program. And they’re hoping Davie, despite the 2-22 hole he inherits for the current decade, can take the program to heights not seen since the ’30s.
• GEORGE FRIBERG, quarterback, the ’50s: Friberg, an Albuquerque High graduate, said he misses the traditional and regional rivalries that have disappeared from the Lobos’ schedule over time. He was a freshman in 1957 when UNM beat longtime nemesis Arizona for the first time in 17 years.
Of the more recent Lobo past, he says: “It’s been unusual and painful to watch the previous coach; his style was so unusual.”
Friberg noted that Davie, a college football TV analyst for the past decade, has been out of coaching but not away from the game.
“It’s encouraging; it’s really pretty exciting,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
• GARY NESS, fullback/linebacker, the ’60s: A former UNM athletic director and physical education professor, Ness played on back-to-back Western Athletic Conference champions in 1962-63. After winning another WAC title in ’64, UNM hasn’t seen a conference championship since.
That’s no coincidence, Ness said, because college football switched to unlimited substitutions in 1965 — completely changing the game.
Ness, a former college assistant and high school head coach, loves the way the game has evolved. Yet, he hopes Davie can instill a one-platoon brand of toughness.
Of the past few years, Ness says: “I’m disappointed, mostly for the kids. I put myself in their place. If I were playing and won one game all year, I’m sure it would hurt.
“I think (the current players) realize they’ve got a chance ahead of them, and that’s great.”
• WALT ARNOLD, tight end, the ’70s: A three-sport star at Los Alamos High School, Arnold might have been better known for baseball than football at UNM. But he went on to play eight years in the NFL for four teams.
“The hardest thing,” he said of the past few seasons, “is that I just didn’t think we were prepared, weren’t well coached, and didn’t play very hard. … It was painful to watch.”
Of Davie, he said: “I really like him. I like his attitude. … I’m not expecting miracles, but I feel really good about it.”
• KIM McCALL, linebacker, the ’80s: McCall, a star quarterback at Highland High School, easily can relate to the current Lobos — UNM went 9-39 during his four seasons (1988-91) under coach Mike Sheppard. Yet, he said: “I met some great people. (Football) got me an education, and (now) it gives me a chance to give back.”
McCall, though, wishes better things for the current players.
“Really frustrating,” he said of the past three seasons. “It just seemed like nothing was getting done.
“… But now, definitely, I’m looking forward to better things to come.”
• WINSLOW OLIVER, running back, the ’90s: Oliver, who ranks fourth all-time among UNM rushers with 3,332 yards from 1992-95, went on to play five years in the NFL for Carolina and Atlanta.
A Houston resident, Oliver said he has followed the Lobos faithfully from a distance.
“This place is special to me,” he said. “I’ve always said, if you win here you’ll never stop winning, because it’s such a great atmosphere. … (The recent past) has been painful for me, because I know the potential.”
• GEORGE CARTER, linebacker, the ’00s: Carter, an Academic All-American and an Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar, also saw success on the field; the Lobos won 28 games and went to three bowl games during his four years (2004-07).
He remains close to the program.
“This university gave me a lot,” the Albuquerque High graduate said, “so I’ve taken it upon myself to give back to the university now.”
The decay of the program since his senior season in 2007 has frustrated him.
“I’m hoping, and I’m very confident,” he said, “that coach Davie can help restore what we all worked so hard to build.”
• MIKE MUÑIZ, offensive lineman, the ’10s: On May 12, Muñiz graduated from UNM with a degree in communications. Six days later, he attended his first football alumni function.
It won’t be his last, he said.
“I’ve been a Lobo ever since I was born here,” the La Cueva graduate said.
During Muñiz’s career as an active player, UNM won seven games and lost 41.
Like McCall, he wants a better fate for those who follow.
“I’ll be there for all the games, for my friends that are still playing and all the future Lobos that come in.”