In fact, the 2014 season generated the second-lowest ticket revenue in seven years. The lowest ticket revenue was the 2011 season in which head coach Mike Locksley was fired from the University following his troublesome tenure with UNM.
The Lobos were just 2-26 in the two plus years Locksley headed the helm, which was just part of the negative whirlwinds surrounding the coach.
UNM Vice President of Athletics Paul Krebs said the program has significantly turned around since Locksley’s coaching days at UNM and he expects a bright future for the football student-athletes with current head coach Bob Davie at the helm.
“There is no comparison between the former coach and this coaching staff,” Krebs said. “I love what he (Davie) is doing with the development of the student-athletes on and off the field.”
New Mexico’s football program strives for $2 million in revenue for the ability to support the program, Krebs said. Although ticket sales only profited $1,383,357 this past season, Krebs said the $700,000 guaranteed from other areas will plunge the Lobos over the $2 million mark. The Lobos’ guaranteed money from the Mountain West in 2014 is the lowest it’s been since Davie took over as head coach.
“We will be receiving additional money, through TV (and through deals with the Mountain West), more than we had budgeted that will offset our shortfall in the ticket sales,” Krebs said. “College football in general is struggling. Attendance nationally across all football games is down 4 percent this year.”
Davie is coming up on his fourth season as head coach for New Mexico, and last season’s 4-8 record is the best record since 2008. Davie also produced a 4-9 season in his first year in Cherry and Silver.
In a press conference before the 2014 season opener against UTEP on Aug. 30, Davie said he understands the fans’ desire to attend winning games, something he has strived for since taking the head coaching position in 2012.
“It’s important but I also know again that we have to put a product out there that people want to come watch,” Davie said. “From that point on, we need to give them a reason to come back.”
UNM averaged 21,937 fans per game in 2014, which ranked seventh of the 12 Mountain West teams, and the Lobos haven’t come close to mustering up a winning season since 2007 when the team went 9-4, including a 23-0 New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada.
UNMerciful is a student-run organization designed to generate excitement towards UNM sports. Steven Roberts, the president of UNMerciful, said it will take time to entice Lobo fans back to University Stadium. He said the change has already taken place regarding the atmosphere that Davie brings to his players and in time, fans will follow.
“The attitude is so much different. They just always believe in themselves. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are down in the games or up in a game, they just always believe in themselves,” Roberts said. “That’s what Bob Davie has brought to the program, I think.”
Davie’s inability to produce an immediate cure to UNM’s woes, going 5-13 record at home (11-26 overall), could be one reason Lobo fans have turned away from the program. However, Krebs said the two Friday night games the Lobos hosted also put a dent in the seating numbers.
“I actually give our fans a lot of credit for hanging with us through a very down time,” Krebs said. “Ultimately, putting a winning product on the field is a huge step in the right direction and I think we’re headed in that direction.”
During the slow times of progression, Krebs said the school has worked to put together more of an exciting atmosphere in order to entice people to gather in the stands. Krebs said he hopes to add more additions to yield an electrifying ambiance.
“The one thing you can’t control is winning the games,” Krebs said. “We may have a new sound system for next year. We’ve added fireworks. We’ve tried to do a number of things related to the student body like the student tailgate party.”
The challenging mark the University would like to reach is filling 25,000 to 30,000 seats every game, Krebs said. He said it is a growing process which will continue to improve.
In order to bring the rocking atmosphere back to New Mexico, Roberts said the Lobos just need to win.
“Traditionally that’s what you see happen here in Albuquerque,” Roberts said. “If you go back to the Rocky Long era, when they were starting to win, you saw a lot more participation, not just in students, but in overall fan participation.”
Although fans would certainly prefer to attend a winning event, the Lobos have made significant strides to foster an improving program.
New Mexico has warranted a nod of approval early in Davie’s career as a Lobo, granting him a two-year contract extension back in April of 2013. The former Notre Dame head coach is under contract until the 2019 season.
Liam Cary-Eaves is the assistant sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Liam_CE.