Where's the love for UNM football? - Albuquerque Journal

Where’s the love for UNM football?

Hate to break it to you Lobo faithful, but apparently Steve Alford won’t be coming back to coach UNM anytime soon. Make the effort to embrace Craig Neal, even if effort is something he can’t coach.

And for those of you coveting Paul Krebs’ departure, understand there’s not enough money on earth to get Theo Epstein interested in rescuing UNM’s athletic department. Banishing curses in Boston and Chicago is one matter, balancing financial matters in New Mexico is a different beast.

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So we are left to ponder a couple of other pressing issues:

1. Are we New Mexicans considered U.S. citizens if we do not have one of those new-fangled driver’s licenses?

2. Why has the community taken to UNM football with as much enthusiasm of someone caught in a traffic jam on Central Avenue?

If Bob Davie’s Lobos can muster a win over the pesky Roadrunners of UT San Antonio in Saturday’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl, it would give them nine wins for the first time since 2007. It already is only the fifth season of eight or more wins since 1982.

The man from just outside the rugged city of Pittsburgh has put together an entertaining group. No, it’s not the pass-happy dance that is all the rage in the modern college game. But Teriyon Gipson, Tyrone Owens, Richard McQuarley, et. al — with help from the beef up front — can scamper for a score on any given play.

Linebacker Dakota Cox and quarterback Lamar Jordan arrived in darker times, have kept the faith and are reaping some rewards. Both are bright young men who didn’t duck leadership responsibilities when under duress.

Any program would be proud to have a young man like offensive lineman Garrett Adcock, who does his apart to make his corner of the world a bit better.

The football program posted a 2.80 grade point average in the spring 2016 semester, the second-highest GPA in program history, and the best in 13 years.

And yet, the Lobos averaged a bare 18,708 fans a home game this season — their total of 112,250 is about what Michigan got for its game against Illinois in October. That’s down from 22,562 last year, which was down from 26,944 in 2009, the first year of the Mike Locksley era. The record average of 38,341 in 2005 seems like a misprint.

Blame the game times. Blame parking fees or concession costs. Blame the weather. Blame lousy opponents. Blame the students. Blame Davie’s sometimes grumpy demeanor. Blame all those durn foreigners (Texans, Californians, etc.) on the roster.

Blame the planetary retrogrades.

Everybody has a reason and it is costing UNM money. Football lost about a million bucks in 2015. This year, Davie’s former bosses at ESPN have helped the school by putting the Lobos on ESPN2 three times at a tune of $500,000 an appearance. Good money, but it’s hard to count on that every year. And it will not make up for the money football lost the last 10 years or so.

When the Lobos visited Colorado State earlier this year, Davie took a tour of the new stadium and facilities. He was both impressed and concerned about what the competition had done. Getting whipped by the Rams probably didn’t make him feel any better.

But the state of New Mexico is starving for cash and is leaning on UNM (and other state institutions) to cut costs. Couple that with the general lack of enthusiasm for football, the climate is not right for more money to be poured into football.

Still, Neal did get a 200 grand raise only months after Krebs insisted no raise was coming. And Krebs has been kind to football since Davie’s arrival, handing out money for facility improvements and raises for assistants.

Meanwhile, the main campus and UNM’s other athletic programs have been ordered to scrimp.

Football rules college athletics. At UNM, it is a little more complicated.

Back in tougher times, a bunch of Lobos would cram in Donnie White’s small apartment after tough losses and talk about what it would take to bring a little respect to the program.

It seems they have done what they could.

Perhaps this is as good as it gets.

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