Photo courtesy of New Mexico athletics
When one thinks about major college football, New Mexico probably isn’t the first program that comes to mind.
With just two winning seasons since 2008, things have not gone well for the Lobos of late. Others have noticed:
“Is it any wonder New Mexico barely surpasses the 20,000 mark in average attendance at home games?
It’s hard to really grab a hold of what makes New Mexico’s University Stadium in Albuquerque so completely unintimidating for visitors—the terrible New Mexico football team or the stadium that’s a third empty and quiet as a tomb on Saturday.” -Bleacher Report
The Davies Era
In 2019, New Mexico recorded the lowest attendance at a game in 17 years vs. Hawaii (12,617). Following the 45-31 loss, head coach Bob Davies blamed it on himself. The head man of the Lobos since 2012, Davies likely saw the proverbial writing on the wall.
After eight years, the attendance under Davies was 21,541 fans on average per game. When asked about attendance, he said, ”That doesn’t frustrate me at all.” He then followed up at a later interview saying, “I don’t really think it’s a win situation to talk about it.”
Davies was absent from the attempt to spark the program through online marketing. This is not to blame the demise solely on Coach Davies, but it starts with culture. If you are unwilling to address fans and the culture at New Mexico, attendance is not going to grow.
The word “culture” — it carries through every college program in America. It’s the first thing a coach will establish. It is what creates excitement.
As fans, we have our own culture — what fuels us to support our team. New Mexico is our team; we love this school and these players. We will show up through the best and worst of times… or will we? The presence of so called “super fans” and The Red Menace — where did it go?
They’re the ones who left this team and left behind these players. What does that do? What culture does that represent? When things don’t go well, we give up and just leave. We either stop showing up, leave early or just jump off the ship as a whole.
As a player, that would make me upset looking up at empty bleachers. What fun is that? What’s worse than coming out to play in front of practically no fans, half of which leave before the game ends? When do we stop blaming others for this program’s decline? When did we lose all hope and passion for our Lobos?
Changing the culture starts with us as fans; your attendance matters. If you are content with being a joke to the rest of the Mountain West Conference, being an easy away opponent, having less attendance on average than New Mexico State… you are the problem. This is our team, and if you are a fan of the Lobos, you need to take your team back. It’s time WE change the culture in the stadium. That’s up to us.
New Coach, New Culture
This offseason, the Lobos hired Danny Gonzales. An assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Arizona State, Gonzales graduated and played for New Mexico. That’s also where he started his coaching career.
Gonzalez is a hometown guy — a tried and true New Mexican. In his press conference, he stated that the program would “recruit New Mexico kids”. Gonzales filled nine coaching positions. The team has a blistering high GPA and Coach Gonzales has pulled in some great local talent. Yes, he is still unproven, but in a short period of time, he has influenced things here.
One can’t help but to feel excited about it. If Coach Gonzales came back home, to his alma mater, at its worst time, what’s holding you as fans from showing up? He is setting a new culture and we need to match that.
For once, let’s be excited about Lobo football. Change starts with culture, and it’s time for us as fans — whether you left or have been dormant — to step up. Whether you have given up or you’ve stayed through it all, it’s not too late to take this team back.
Changing the culture starts with us.