Unlike the Albuquerque Journal, which called for the firing of University of New Mexico football coach Bob Davie on Friday, I felt it necessary to let the season play out.
My reservation was as much out of respect for UNM men’s soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein, who has been fighting and hoping for a miracle ever since the school announced the elimination of the program over the summer.
To suggest that the school should look to buy out the remainder of Davie’s contract (which USA Today recently reported was at $1.3 million as of Dec. 1, 2018), when it could try to breathe life into men’s soccer with that money, is abhorrent.
And if the Lobos somehow could beat a Wyoming team needing a win to become bowl-eligible, maybe Davie could build some momentum for 2019.
Saturday final: Cowboys 31, Lobos 3.
Davie said several UNM officials must gather after the season and have a long, frank discussion about expectations and commitment for Lobo football.
And at the end of those discussions, UNM needs to ask Davie what he’ll take as a severance package to allow the school to find a new coach.
Davie must go.
The Journal listed several points against Davie, and then dismissed them all, except for the lost fan base.
No, all those points against Davie should be considered. UNM averaged 16,587 fans in 2018, the lowest total in 27 years.
Davie built the program that had gone 3-37 in its previous 40 games before his arrival to a nine-win season in 2016 on the strength of a triple-option offense that led the nation in rushing at 350 yards per game.
The Lobos still only won three games, finishing 3-9, 1-7 in the Mountain West and on a seven-game losing streak for the second straight season.
And that spread option that put up 211 points in its first five games in 2018 — albeit against arguably lesser competition — regressed significantly in the last half of the season with 108 points over the last seven games.
Davie significantly underestimated the effect that UNM’s ball-control prowess in the triple-option had on its defense. In limited doses, the Lobo defense could play with Mountain West competition.
But leaving the unit on the field for extended minutes was disastrous.
On Saturday, the Lobos’ spread-option offense produced 83 total yards. The defense played against a quarterback that completed just 4 of 17 passes and still surrendered 407 total yards and 31 points.
On the field, that’s not progress.
Off the field, Davie also has encountered his share of problems.
Davie was suspended for 30 days in February for a general violation of university policy. Davie backers might suggest that there was no concrete evidence of any wrongdoing.
Davie’s disciplinary policy long has been questionable, regarding his players. Part of his suspension hinged on the fact that he spoke to UNM police on behalf of a player who was accused of rape. Instead of staying out of the investigation, Davie argued that a video shown to the police officer undermined the accuser’s credibility.
Davie then deemed it appropriate to stay out of an incident involving two of his own players this season. A police report said linebacker Evahelotu Tohi knocked teammate David Brown unconscious in an altercation at a party last month.
Davie asked Tohi if he was involved in the altercation. When Tohi affirmed he was, Davie instructed Tohi not to say any more and let him practice for two days. Only after KOB-TV learned of the altercation and informed UNM of its intent to make the incident public did Davie announce he was suspending Tohi.
The school has said eliminating football, or even dropping it down to the Football Championship Subdivision, is not an option. So the program continues to be a financial issue for the entire athletic department.
UNM needs a football coach that will engage the community in addition to winning.
Davie never has been big on engaging the community. And even when he won, people weren’t coming to the games.
Well, now he’s not winning anymore.
If UNM is somehow able to find $1.3 million to buy out Davie, logic dictates that it should immediately reinstate beach volleyball (for Title IX considerations) and men’s soccer instead.
But the athletic department lowered ticket revenue projections for Lobo football from $1.9 million to $1.2 million in 2018 and still failed to meet those projections.
If UNM lowers those ticket-revenue projections another 37 percent in 2019 to about $758,000, what happens when football can’t meet that? What else will the school eliminate along beach volleyball and men’s soccer?
Thus, while Jeremy Fishbein can’t afford for UNM to buy out Davie’s contract, all the other Lobo sports that don’t play basketball can’t afford for UNM not to buy out Davie’s contract.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
Unfortunately for Fishbein, he and Davie are the few.
Greg Archuleta is the assistant editor at Enchantment Sports. He was the New Mexico Lobo football beat writer for the Albuquerque Journal for 12 years and worked as a professional journalist for more than two decades. You can reach him at greg.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.