UNM’s football season already looks deflated

April 14, 2019

Lobo football season, the make-or-break season some think it will be, kicks off in 139 days.

That’s the good news.

The bad is going to take a while to scroll through.

The University of New Mexico is (takes deep breath) coming off back-to-back 3-9 seasons where the Lobos lost seven straight games each time, coming off the lowest-attendance year since President George H.W. Bush was in the White House, coming off a horrendous 2018 in which head coach Bob Davie was suspended for 30 days and the program incurred steep budget cuts as part of the belt tightening within the athletic department.

Apathy for football became all the rage when the other fútbol was put on the chopping block, an unpopular move that had fans and politicians questioning the need for a big-budget, low-interest sport.

It got so bad by the season finale last fall that half the concession stands on the west side of the stadium remained shuttered and the tailgate lot to the east sat mostly empty.

Davie has suggested this is a pivotal moment for the football program.

Don’t bet on it.

The breaking point already happened and the fix appears to be an impossible Band-Aid that will never be available.

The turning point should have been 2017 when the Lobos were coming off back-to-back bowl bids. They responded with consecutive 3-9 seasons and, just like that, they were back to the Mike Sheppard days of the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Couple that with 2019’s turnover at both coordinator positions and even more uncertainty with an offensive unit that was stripped of its identity when Davie gave up on the triple option spread in favor of a more pass-friendly scheme, and it raises more questions than it’s worth.

Add the off-field stuff, like the second practice of spring ball that’s going on right now.

Davie was talking to the media when he was told that the fan-based committee designed to generate interest in a community that doesn’t seem to care had canceled its first meeting.

He was justifiably bugged, as it sends a clear message that the mess isn’t going away any time soon.

So go ahead and look forward to the 2019 schedule. Up first is a cupcake opener against an FCS team, Sam Houston State, that finished 6-5 a year ago.

Translation: Win.

Two weeks later is a trip to South Bend, Ind. — Davie’s old stomping grounds. This is the impossible Band-Aid. If UNM can somehow remain competitive on national TV against mighty Notre Dame, it might generate some interest back home.

Translation: Blowout loss.

Then comes a home date with the Aggies that generally draws a crowd in excess of 30,000, then two road games before the conference home opener in mid-October. By then the team could easily be 2-3 and well on its way to another long season. Before the leaves change, people will be barking about the $822,000 salary Davie pulls down and the need for football at all.

Make or break? It might be broken beyond repair.

Will Webber writes an opinion column about sports in New Mexico. Contact Webber at 505-603-9467 or wwebber@sfnewmexican.com.