By Greg Archuleta
Apparently, Bob Davie isn’t angling for any public relations jobs with the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors’ Bureau anytime soon.
Also apparently, Davie doesn’t have much faith in student-athlete safety during the weekends in the Duke City — but only during the football season.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday that the University of New Mexico football team will return to the college football standard practice of staying at a hotel on nights before home games.
The Lobos stopped that practice in 2018 as a cost-savings measure for the cash-strapped athletic department.
According to the Journal, Davie approached athletic director Eddie Nuñez and deputy director David Williams about a week after the fatal shooting of UNM baseball player Jackson Weller outside a Nob Hill club in early May.
“Davie said he told them: ‘Not that we can have all 110 kids at the hotel; we only take the travel team (up to 70 players). But that is a dangerous, dangerous thing to be not keeping a college football team in a hotel the night before a game,’” the Journal reported.
Davie also said, “We were being reckless. “We were putting people in harm’s way” by not putting the players in a hotel on eves of games.
You know what else is reckless, not to mention shameful? Davie using the Weller tragedy for selfish gain.
This is not to suggest that the Lobos shouldn’t stay at a hotel the night before a home game. Most teams do. By keeping the players all in one location, Davie can ensure they are fed and get proper nourishment before the game, they are in their rooms with lights out by a certain time so they get their rest.
That does help ensure that these 18- to 23-year-old young men — who can, on occasion, fail to make the best decisions — don’t get into trouble, but it also ensures that they don’t drink or stay out too late and only get a few hours of sleep before the game.
Davie also gave the example of a player’s car breaking down driving to the UNM South Complex on game day.
Those reasons are enough by themselves to rationalize UNM springing for hotels on game nights, especially when the school is investing millions of dollars in trying to sustain a winning program.
Suggesting that the players could be in danger by not staying in a hotel on nights before home games is beyond preposterous.
How do we survive? What about other student-athletes? What about other college students, period? Albuquerque has its share of crime, but should anyone going out on a night before a Lobo football home game take more precaution than usual?
Factoring in the six nights before road games, what about the other 40 weekends? By Davie’s logic, shouldn’t UNM put Lobo football players up in a hotel, just to be safe? They are, after all, “in harm’s way.”If Albuquerque is that dangerous, how does any Lobo coach recruit out-of-state players?
And “harm’s way” isn’t just restricted to nights before home games. If memory serves, former Lobo linebacker Evahelotu Tohi sent teammate David Brown to the hospital after an altercation at a party on the night that UNM had just returned home from a 61-19 afternoon loss to Utah State in Logan, Utah.
Maybe that wouldn’t have happened if Tohi, a scholarship player, was at a hotel under the coaching staff’s supervision on the night after the game was played. Why doesn’t Davie ask for that, too?
The Weller tragedy should be a tremendous teaching moment to current and future UNM student-athletes about being out in public at 2 a.m. Every Lobo coach should invite baseball coach Ray Birmingham to talk to their teams about being out in public at all hours of the night.
But UNM is paying Davie over $800,000 per year. As part of Davie’s compensation, the school should expect him to be able to impose a curfew and his players adhere to that curfew if that’s what Davie chose to do.
At least, Nuñez has the sense to play down Davie’s safety angle, telling the Journal that in putting up the players in a hotel, “I think it’s more about the opportunity to have everyone in the same location so that we can check on them. They are getting the rest and we are having everybody in one location. They can feed the team and all be ready for the game. That is more of the driving force for this than safety.”
As we’ve seen from the recent events in El Paso and Dayton, we’re all in harm’s way, at any hour of the day. We continue to live our lives.
For Davie to suggest that putting the players in a hotel before game days for safety concerns is insulting not only to Lobo fans but to the Albuquerque community itself.
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. Look for Greg’s “Koz and Effect” columns throughout the football season. Koz? You can as him why, or reach him with any other tidbits, tips or inquiries at enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.