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Athletics budget situation improving

Every year since 2010, UNM’s athletics budget has spent more than it has brought in, although its situation has improved as of late.

According to University documents, UNM Athletics was in the red by more than $1 million in 2012. But by 2013 that number was shaved to $800,000, and was $23,000 last year.

“We do what every other business and enterprise does: we just try to control our costs as best we can,” said Paul Krebs, vice president of athletics at UNM.

Assistant Athletics Director of Communications Frank Mercogliano said a variety of factors come into play when trying to balance the budget, including agreements with other schools and local businesses.

“In the last year we have signed seven-figure agreements with U.S. Bank and WisePies Pizza and Salad that will help us with a dedicated revenue stream over a period of years,” he said.

To further supplement revenue streams, Mercogliano said UNM Athletics is looking to bring in money via game contracts with Rutgers, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, among other prominent Division I football programs.

Krebs said the College Football Playoff, the new format that the NCAA adopted to determine a Division I champion starting last year, has also brought more money to UNM’s Athletics Department.

One challenge that UNM faces compared to other schools is the lower amount of support from student fees and the state.

“Almost every school (in the Mountain West) gets more support in one of those facets from the University,” Krebs said. “Us and Boise State are near the top of the league when it comes to self-generation of our budget.”

According to the Albuquerque Journal, UNM Athletics hired recent graduate Michael Marcelli to be its new chief financial officer last month. In fact, Marcelli is the first CFO the Athletics Department has ever had.

“We haven’t had the manpower to do analysis, projections, forecasting, those kinds of things,” Krebs said. “We finally made the decision that we need to make the initial investment in this position, but it doesn’t mean to suggest we haven’t had something paying attention to the budget. This position is just much more strategic.”

One way that the department’s budget has been scoring big and scoring often is in local support for UNM athletics, often the go-to for sports fans in a city where the ceiling for professional sports lies in the minor-league baseball team Albuquerque Isotopes, affiliate for the Colorado Rockies.

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According to University documents, ticket sales are consistently among the highest sources of revenue, with $6.7 million raised in the last two years, and $6.4 
million in 2012.

“I think we have an extraordinary fan base,” Mercogliano said. “Most of our sports are in the top 25 in attendance every year, and we draw very well. Of course, we would love to have sellouts at every event, and we have a great variety of promotions and ticket plans that we feel fits all 
different budgets.”

One unique and necessary facet of the budget that makes athletics unique from other University departments is travel, for which the costs continue to rise, said Krebs.

But Mercogliano said UNM Athletics is looking at how to bring those costs back down, including using nationwide partnerships for airfare, as well as the alternative of ground transportation.

Over the last two years, contributions — which according to UNM documents are donations “received directly from individuals, corporations, associations, foundations, clubs or other organizations” — were by far the biggest sources of income for the athletics department, to the tune of $9.8 million in 2014 and a little over $9 million in 2013.

Mercogliano said that goes back to a loyal and “tremendous” fan base.

“(They) love what our student-athletes represent and stand for,” he said. “We continue to work with our fans, our alumni and local and national partners to support financially the accomplishments of our student-athletes across 22 sports, and the University of 
New Mexico.”

David Lynch is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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