I am writing – as both a University of New Mexico employee and New Mexico State University alumni – to express my deep frustration and disappointment with the UNM Athletics Department regarding the decision to charge the NMSU Pride Marching Band to attend the NM State versus University of New Mexico football game. I feel this way for a number of reasons.
1. UNM has never before charged the Pride of New Mexico Marching Band to attend games in Albuquerque, NMSU has never charged Spirit Marching Band to attend games in Las Cruces and neither band has had to use seats that both schools are contractually obligated to supply – facts that the athletics department is surely aware of. To claim otherwise – which UNM Athletics Director Eddie Nuñez does in his interview with the Albuquerque Journal when he states that it is “standard procedure” – is in bad faith at best and an outright lie at worst. It is distressing to see such disingenuous statements coming from an organization whose core values supposedly include “integrity” and “respect.”
2. Considering that Spirit Marching Band is not planning to attend the UNM/NMSU game next year, this decision to suddenly upend this longstanding practice between the two schools seems exploitative as only NMSU will have to shoulder this cost (upwards of $4,400) and they were not alerted to this change before travel arrangements had been solidified.
3. Setting the precedent of charging visiting bands to support their team in New Mexico is deeply frustrating in light of the minimal funding music programs receive, especially compared to the inflated budget of the Athletics Department.
4. Nuñez mentions that the band could simply use some of the 450 seats that UNM is contractually obligated to provide. This option that, again, NMSU has not been forced to use before, might have been viable had NMSU been notified sooner. As any university program should know, budgeting and allocation is done far in advance, and expecting NMSU to accommodate this change in less than two weeks is rather outrageous. The fact that this change was not communicated with time for NMSU to budget or allocate accordingly is remarkably unprofessional and short-sighted.
5. Lastly, during a time when the UNM-NMSU rivalry is particularly tense in light of the unfortunate shooting last year, decisions like this do nothing but stoke feelings of ill-will and resentment. Both schools should be actively working to create an atmosphere of camaraderie and friendly competition, and to suddenly mandate costs that almost excluded Pride does exactly the opposite.
I hope that Athletics reconsiders this terrible decision, or at least in the future are upfront about their intentions in order to allow for NMSU to properly prepare for this eventuality.
By Kyrene Maska