Football puts wrench in UNM 5-year plan

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In 2009, it was a very different world for UNM athletics.

Steve Alford had yet to take Lobo basketball to the NCAA tournament and Mike Locksley was just starting what would end up being a disastrous tenure as head football coach.

Five years later, there are new faces at the helms of both programs but UNM athletics is still doing its best to follow the goals in a strategic plan it laid out in 2009. It’s a plan set to expire at the end of June.

“I think overall we’re really happy now compared to where we were five years ago,” said Kurt Esser, senior associate athletics director at UNM.

As Esser points out, the academic performance of UNM athletes has ticked upward. So have merchandise sales.

University Stadium has a new scoreboard. The Pit underwent a complete makeover. Lobo Field, the home for UNM baseball, has received a number of improvements as well.

On the court, UNM basketball has gone to the NCAA tournament four of the last five years. UNM soccer made it to the Final Four this year.

But on a number of the goals under “Financial Stability” in the plan, UNM is set to come up short.

“We want our attendance to improve in football and that will help us on a financial standpoint,” Esser said.

In 2009, the plan set a goal of a little more than 17,000 season ticket holders by 2014. Then the team’s play collapsed and attendance suffered mightily. Locksley’s buyout and a big dip in revenue have hampered athletic efforts.

The plan also set a goal of raising $75 million for UNM athletics capital campaign. Lee De Leon, executive director of the Lobo Club, says UNM is on track to get to that number by the end of the year. That’s six months after the plan’s June 30 ending date.

The hope is that if UNM football turns things around on the field, the funding needed for improvements to University Stadium will be easier to come by.

“As we improve I think those will start to bubble up to the top as well,” Esser said.

Esser says the department is already starting to look ahead to its next five year plan, which should be put into action sometime later this year.

 

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