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Lobo football to open 2025 season at Michigan

A big crowd showed up to watch the Lobo football spring game Saturday at University Stadium. The 2025 Lobos have signed a contract to play at Michigan, and the program is making it a point to play at least one Power 5 school per season. (Roberto E. Rosales/ABQ Journal)

For the first time in program history, the University of New Mexico football team is heading to the Big House.

The Lobos recently finalized a guaranteed game at Michigan to open the 2025 season on Aug. 30, UNM announced Wednesday.

Michigan will pay UNM $1.8 million over three installments. The first payment, $300,000, is due no later than March 31, 2022. The second payment is $500,000 and is due by March 31, 2024, and the final payment of $1 million is due by March 31, 2026.

UNM is scheduled to play at UCLA, also in 2025, for a $1.2 million guarantee.

“I think by 2025 we’ll be a very competitive football team, so I’ve got no problem to go play Michigan and play at UCLA,” UNM coach Danny Gonzales said. “Hopefully we’ll have some more depth by then, because those are the kind of games where you can lose some guys to injury.”

UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said he is grateful he works with a football coach “who thinks outside the box” and wants to schedule games against big-time programs. Nuñez was expecting to schedule Michigan for the 2029 or 2030 season, and that still might happen, but Michigan wanted 2025.

Nuñez said he was concerned because a game at UCLA was also scheduled for 2025, but he said, Gonzales responded with “who cares?” when asked about adding Michigan.

“When you take a competitive football team, and the longer they let you stay in the game, the more of a chance you have to win it,” Gonzales said. “I’m excited about that. And, 2025, that gives us plenty of time to build. I’m excited for the opportunity to go play those schools.”

When Gonzales was hired in December 2019, he said he told Nuñez that he wanted to schedule home-and-home series against Pac-12 programs. Gonzales worked as defensive coordinator at the Pac-12’s Arizona State for two seasons prior to becoming head coach of his alma mater.

The Lobos are scheduled to play at Oregon State in 2027 and for the Beavers to come to UNM in 2028. They are wanting more home-and-home series, Gonzales said.

Gonzales is also considering other teams that are not in the Pac-12.

“I’m trying to get with (coach) Matt Wells to get a home-and-home with Texas Tech, because I think for all of our regional Power 5 schools that would be the most ideal because we would get a good crowd both there and here,” Gonzales said. “Those are natural rivalries. They shouldn’t be afraid to play us here.”

UNM has at least one major conference opponent scheduled each season through 2028.

■ 2021– at Texas A&M ($1.1 million)

■ 2022 – at LSU ($1.6 million)

■ 2023 – at Texas A&M ($1.6 million)

■ 2024 – at Auburn ($1.9 million)

■ 2025 – at Michigan ($1.8 million), at UCLA ($1.2 million)

■ 2026 – at Oklahoma ($1.6 million)

■ 2027 – at Oregon State (no payment), at Texas A&M ($1.7 million)

■ 2028 – Oregon State (no payment)

NO SURGERIES REQUIRED: The Lobos received good news on recent MRIs for quarterback Isaiah Chavez (elbow/arm) and wide receiver Elijah Queen (knee). Neither player will require surgery, Gonzales said.

Chavez, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Rio Rancho High, will begin treatment on his right (throwing) arm and be re-evaluated in a few weeks, Gonzales said.

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