The selection of Danny Gonzales as the new University of New Mexico football coach is something to cheer.
We understand the criticism from many who believe the cost of football at UNM is not worth the millions spent, but we’re still happy to see Gonzales take the helm. That’s true even though it is harder than ever to justify the spending, considering the dismal record of the team, low attendance at games and recent deficits in the athletic department budget.
But given the complications of big-time athletics, football needs to be part of the program if UNM, for example, wants its basketball team to belong to a conference and compete in the big leagues. Until college athletics changes, the Lobos are stuck fielding a football team.
And so long as UNM is going to have a team, it’s encouraging to have a coach who is talented, respected and also gets New Mexico. The Lobos now have potential to be competitive, and that’s an improvement on this year’s 2-10 season with nine straight losses.
Gonzales, 43, is a former UNM player and assistant coach, and doesn’t even mind becoming the third-lowest paid coach in the Mountain West Conference in 2020. His agreement is for five years, at $700,000 per year, with a base salary of $400,000 and the rest coming from additional obligations.
For fans of Lobos football — those who remain after recent dismal seasons — Gonzales is someone who can bring the faithful back. And that’s exciting.
A graduate of Valley High School, Gonzales grew up in Albuquerque and walked on at UNM, becoming part of the team that won the Western Athletic Conference Mountain Division in 1997. He knows how to win, and he knows what it is like to win at UNM.
Fittingly, he met the fans for the first time as Lobos head coach at the halftime of a UNM basketball game earlier this month. His enthusiasm is infectious. More telling are his actions. He was willing to take less money than former coach Bob Davie and wants any extra dollars to be spent hiring top assistant coaches and building the program. Those are the right priorities.
With his defensive expertise — he’s credited with turning around the defense at Arizona State University — he takes over a Lobos program that, frankly, is a mess. Not only did the team fail on the field, a number of off-field issues have troubled the program.
Now Gonzales will need to recruit talented players — and we’d bet he won’t overlook New Mexico talent — and then mold them into a team. As the first Hispanic major men’s sports coach in UNM history, he immediately becomes a role model and a local hero.
Bringing in a coach who wants to be at UNM promises, if not a winning season, at least one that is more fun for fans. Gonzales deserves our best wishes.