UNM foot­ball ticket sales trend­ing be­low tar­get

First-quar­ter re­port in­di­cates pro­gram may not meet pro­jec­tion

Albuquerque Journal - - FRONT PAGE - BY JES­SICA DYER JOUR­NAL STAFF WRITER

Af­ter con­sis­tently in­flat­ing ticket rev­enue pro­jec­tions and then miss­ing bud­get, the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Ath­let­ics Depart­ment this year dra­mat­i­cally down­graded its foot­ball sales fore­cast.

But the pro­gram is still not on pace to meet that tar­get, ac­cord­ing to new fi­nan­cial fig­ures.

UNM bud­geted this year ex­pect­ing $1.2 mil­lion in foot­ball ticket sales — well be­low the $1.9 mil­lion and $2 mil­lion writ­ten into pre­vi­ous years’ bud­gets.

This year’s $1.2 mil­lion is lower than even the ac­tual rev­enue last year ($1.54 mil­lion).

How­ever, UNM has made just $323,610 through the first third of the Lo­bos’ home slate, ac­cord­ing to the univer­sity’s newly re­leased first-quar­ter fi­nan­cial fig­ures. That’s 27 per­cent of the goal for a sport that for which at­ten­dance typ­i­cally drops as the sea­son pro­gresses.

The num­ber in­cludes only part of the rev­enue from about 8,500 sea­son tick­ets sold. That money is bro­ken up and counted as each game is played.

The fig­ure does not in­clude the two most re­cent home games. But the team — now 3-6 on the sea­son — played both of those in a mostly empty Dream­style Sta­dium. Head coach Bob Davie quipped af­ter the last game, against San Diego State, that the num­ber of fans who showed up could have been ac­com­mo­dated “on a cou­ple of bleach­ers.”

UNM has two home games re­main­ing: next Fri­day against Boise State and Nov. 24 ver­sus Wy­oming. UNM is billing the Boise State game as “Heroes Night” to cel­e­brate first re­spon­ders and mil­i­tary, which Ath­letic Di­rec­tor Ed­die Nuñez said he hopes will drive ad­di­tional in­ter­est.

But he ac­knowl­edged that the num­bers “don’t look ex­actly like I want them to look,” and that it be­comes in­creas­ingly hard to fill seats later in the year, cit­ing fac­tors such as weather and the start of bas­ket­ball.

“His­tor­i­cally, games to­ward the No­vem­ber time­line have al­ways been a lit­tle bit more of a chal­lenge for us,” he said.

Ath­let­ics has not yet re­cal­i­brated its bud­get or spend­ing to ac­count for the pos­si­ble sea­son-end short­fall. Nuñez said that could be nec­es­sary even­tu­ally, but said the bud­get assess­ment is “on­go­ing.”

This year’s low­ered pro­jec­tion fol­lowed crit­i­cism that ath­let­ics in the past made overly op­ti­mistic ticket fore­casts so it could spend ac­cord­ingly, only to see an­nual deficits pile up when the sales did not ma­te­ri­al­ize.

Ath­let­ics’ re­peated deficits have raised alarm bells in­side and out­side the univer­sity. It fin­ished in the red eight times since fis­cal year 2008, and last year would have been the ninth had re­gents not in­fused the depart­ment with an ex­tra $2.1 mil­lion to fend off an­other short­fall.

The prob­lems prompted the New Mex­ico Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment to put the univer­sity un­der en­hanced fis­cal over­sight, and re­gents now re­quire the depart­ment to give monthly bud­get up­dates. The depart­ment is ex­pected to reg­u­larly mon­i­tor rev­enue and ex­penses and ad­just as nec­es­sary to avoid deficits.

But Nuñez said it’s still early in the year — the books just closed on the first quar­ter of fis­cal year 2019.

“This is the first op­por­tu­nity we have to be able to as­sess where our tick­ets are,” he said this week. “We’ll con­tinue to look at it as we go through ev­ery game that’s re­main­ing.”

ROBERTO E. ROS­ALES/JOUR­NAL

The Univer­sity of New Mex­ico foot­ball team is not on pace to meet its ticket sales pro­jec­tions this year, newly re­leased num­bers show.

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