It was only a few months ago that UNM was under fire for the Scotland golf trip scandal — the athletic director at the time, Paul Krebs, allegedly used public funds from UNM to finance a golf trip for himself, coworkers and business friends.
Now, the focus has shifted to a new scandal involving perhaps the university’s most recognizable venue, “The Pit," recently renamed Dreamstyle Arena.
Many reports have suggested there are uncollected skybox ticket revenues that date back as far as 2010 and total $432,000.
The Lobo Club, the branch of UNM athletics charged with independent fundraising as well as financial management of the luxury suites, has come under heavy scrutiny for what appears to be errant and disorganized managing practices.
In 2009, the Pit underwent a $60 million renovation, which added 60,000 square feet of new space, including 40 luxury skybox suites, additional restrooms and other amenities.
The suites can cost up to $45,000 to rent individually per season and appeared to be part of the plan to help recoup some of the cost of the major renovation.
But, in May of 2017, after a Public Records Request from KRQE, the financial discrepancies began to enter the spotlight. The documents showed that 42 suite invoices since 2010 have gone unpaid.
UNM has since released the financial documents to the public, but with the New Mexico District Attorney General’s Office investigating the matter, things could be far from over.
“We’re concerned about private citizens enjoying the benefit of this public facility that was built with public dollars,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a recent KOB report.
How hundreds of thousands of dollars could go uncollected for over seven years seems unfathomable, and unraveling the mystery could be an unenviable task.
Acting Athletics Director Janice Ruggiero will now be charged with ensuring the uncollected debts are paid.
Both KRQE and KOB reported that university regents, former athletes and business executives are among those who were on the list of having unpaid suites. Some claimed they were never invoiced, and others said the balances shown are inaccurate.
“The University of New Mexico is continuing to work with individuals and businesses to reconcile records pertaining to unpaid suites in the basketball arena,” Ruggiero said in a release.
Ruggiero went on to say that the UNM Athletic Department and the Lobo Club are working together to develop a plan for collecting on the accounts and resolving the unpaid balances. She said a number have already been paid in full, and a revised balance sheet will be available soon.
The UNM athletics department has also been working to resolve an issue with the UNM Health Sciences Center, as the athletics department failed to pay $263,062 in the fiscal year 2015-2016 for various services provided to UNM student athletes.
The departments have a “Memorandum of Understanding” agreement in place that sees the athletics department pay $391,812 per year to both the UNM Health Sciences Center and the UNM Medical Group for services such as preseason physical exams, X-rays and physical therapy.
The athletics department said that it did not receive the bill that would have triggered the payment and both departments are looking to correct the error.
In order to resolve the past debt and remain current, the athletic department will need to double its payment to the Health Sciences Center this fiscal year.
Matthieu Cartron is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers women’s soccer and men’s tennis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cartron_matt.