We’re barely five days into the University of New Mexico’s football season, and it’s already feeling like a lost cause.
Now, before you grab your cherry-and-silver pitchforks and try to make a convincing argument to the contrary — actually, go ahead. Take a few minutes to devise your plan of attack (eat ’em up, eat ’em up, woof-woof-woof).
In the meantime, chew on this evidentiary grizzle while celebrating the one thing UNM has proven to be very good at: boarding up the PR machine like a beachfront property riding out the storm.
But we’ll get to that soon enough.
Attendance stinks, as witnessed by the so-called 13,749 — about 12,000 of whom sat in the shade on the east side of the stadium — who braved nearly triple-digit heat to watch the Lobos play an FCS school in the middle of a ridiculously hot afternoon.
Fan interest is next to zero, as demonstrated by the proverbial tumbleweeds rolling around in the tailgate lot and the north end zone fan club that, at last count, is down to four guys.
The athletic department’s marketing director is an energetic guy with lots of ambitious plans, but when he took over in June, he discovered that the plan to promote the team — the plan that should have been completed in March — did not exist. So, no media buzz, virtually no TV spots or ads in print or radio and little to no imprint on social media.
And, oh yeah, the head coach disliked by so many (you know who you are) may or may not have had a heart attack/heat stroke/undisclosed major health issue, with no one at UNM talking about it or telling us who’s in charge in his absence.
Just when the athletic department had an opening to seize upon its mantra of transparency and positive vibes with a feel-good Bob Davie narrative, it shuts things down after the 64-year-old coach collapsed and was rushed to the hospital following Saturday’s uninspiring win.
Frankly, Davie’s personal health issues are none of our business. What he faces and how he and his family deal with it are his story, not ours. But — and it’s a big one — it is well within our bounds to expect some sort of update about the man’s wellbeing.
Media outlets were given minimal details about Davie’s status Sunday, and no member of the press was permitted at the team’s practice Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday’s practice was open for half an hour, but Davie was not there.
These two weeks in preparation for the trip to Notre Dame were unofficially earmarked as the celebration of “Coach heading back to South Bend,” a time when he’d stand at the dais and regale us with fireside chats about his time in the land of Touchdown Jesus, golden domes and national spotlights. Heck, he even shared a couple of them with me — stories you’ll read about in the coming week.
Instead, what we’re given is a time of questions and frustrating silence from UNM. It’s a time when we’re all reminded that Lobo football is often a no-fly zone for those with more than a casual interest. It’s a time when a program with a bruised identity and an apathetic fan base is missing an opportunity to take a step in the right direction. Right now, most everyone is feeling a sense of empathy for the coach and concern for the team.
And what’s UNM doing about it?
It’s time to face facts. We are in an era where the football team has had a winning record just 10 times in the last 36 years and has finished at least four games under .500 in nine of the last 11 seasons. The rich have gotten richer, the mid-majors like UNM have been relegated to cannon fodder for the Notre Dames of the world, and all anyone at the school seems to care about is keeping things quiet when people finally have real questions that demand answers.
Basketball season starts in October.
Not that anyone seems to care.
Will Webber has covered Northern New Mexico sports for nearly a quarter century, covering everything from mutton busting to the pros. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.