Politics and football are colliding in the state of New Mexico. Luckily for the two FBS programs in the region, that could wind up working out quite well.
As detailed by the Albuquerque Journal, lawmakers recently made a few changes to their annual state budget. One item that made it into the lengthy bill this year? A measure that could result in millions of debt being wiped from New Mexico and New Mexico State’s ledgers.
Per the Journal:
The language in the budget prohibits the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University from using any state money – which includes money appropriated from the Legislature as well as any other state money that ends up in the athletics departments’ coffers – to pay back the accumulated deficits.
At UNM, that totals a nearly $4.4 million debt the Athletics Department has run up with the main campus through years of overspending.
At NMSU, the debt is $3 million.
The heart of the matter? Not just making sure the universities take proper accounting steps with their athletic departments but the play of both the Lobos and Aggies on the field.
Namely, their reliance on so-called ‘money games.’ Also termed ‘buy games’ or ‘guarantee games,’ these are when Group of Five programs get paid millions to essentially be fodder for larger Power Five programs during the non-conference slate.
While there have been cases of the ones getting the checks still emerging with a surprise victory or two, typically these are pretty lopsided affairs. They happen a lot and have turned into a way of life at programs like in the state.
Now there’s hope that by cancelling some debt, the two teams won’t have to take on such games as often.
“I’m sick and tired of both universities having to take money games. We’re not competitive, and we’re getting crushed, but they’ve got to play those games to get enough money for their athletics departments,” State Sen. John Arthur Smith told the paper.
Both teams lost games by over 50 points on the road in such games last season. Their future schedules also contain plenty more. UNM will travel to USC and Mississippi State in 2020 for example. FBS independent NMSU starts the season off at UCLA and concludes it by going to Florida in late November.
There’s still plenty of work left to be done before things change on the field and with the state budget but perhaps this is the start of some interesting financial relief for two programs that have some of the toughest roads to wins in all of major college football.