Copyright © 2021
After a year without a pit, the fans are back.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams at the University of New Mexico Lobos have a tip for their season this week. Fans are welcome again – wearing masks, of course – to the iconic 55-year-old arena to watch college basketball in a state that, even in lean seasons, has one of the best home court benefits and the highest average home attendance in the country each year.
But a powerful Santa Fe lawmaker is not involved in how UNM Athletics, a division that has been under financial control for much of the past decade, is promoting to get fans back into the pit.
In a recent social media post, House spokesman Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, bluntly questioned why the university kept season ticket prices for the men’s basketball team at $ 199 and at just $ 110 for the women’s team would begin.
“Hey @UNM, @UNMLOBOS and @EddieNunezAD, why do you charge * LESS * season tickets for women’s basketball than @UNMLoboMBB?” Egolf asked in a tweet on October 27th. “Not looking good. #NMPOL @nmhighered. “
It sparked a flurry of responses – many mentioning “supply and demand” or suggesting that Egolf focus on more pressing priorities.
“Mr. Narrator: Perhaps there are other things you should focus on like crime and poverty,” one response said. “But I find it comforting to know that you are an expert in sports event pricing. “
Another said, “Imagine Brian doesn’t know what a market is.”
UNM sports director Eddie Nuñez, who was specifically mentioned in Egolf’s tweet, said he knew what the spokesman was saying but did not want to comment. He said he was open to talking to Egolf or any other state official interested in UNM Athletics matters, including ticket prices.
UNM is not alone. Most, if not all, Division 1 schools charge a higher price for men’s basketball tickets – season tickets or single tickets – than women’s basketball. It is common for schools to charge more for the sports that have the greatest demand for tickets.
In an interview on Tuesday, Egolf said he had no plans to introduce laws on the price difference. However, he said that as a public body, the university should consider more than “dollars and cents” in its marketing to New Mexicoers.
House spokesman Brian Egolf
“As a father of two daughters,” Egolf told the Journal, “I just don’t like the message it gets to girls in the state – that their efforts on the basketball court are not as valued or valued as the men’s work.”
UNM, he said, might consider aligning prices for men’s and women’s basketball or offering season ticket packages that allow access to both teams’ games.
The university, Egolf added, could also seek financial help from lawmakers to address the problem.
“My point is that the promotion the university is doing for selling basketball tickets is a government speech,” said Egolf, who is a lawyer. “This is not a private company that responds to supply and demand and sets prices based solely on market forces.”
A public university, he added, should not “communicate that women’s basketball is inherently less valuable than men’s basketball”.
The spokesman said he followed the sport of Lobo, participated in men’s and women’s games and watched on television. He attended Georgetown University and the UNM School of Law.
Egolf is also a sponsor of the state’s Fair Pay for Women Act, passed in 2013 to outlaw wage discrimination based on gender.
The Lobo women’s team opened their season against Lamar in the Pit on Tuesday. The men’s team begins their season on Wednesday night against Florida Atlantic. While prices may vary from game to game or depend on different university promotions, prices for single game tickets for the season openings ranged from $ 8-14 for the women’s game and $ 15-45 for the men’s game.
In the 2019-20 season – the last before pandemic state health restrictions last season forced men’s and women’s teams to play outside of the state – every team enjoyed strong participation.
The women’s basketball team led the Mountain West Conference, ranking 18th out of 351 Division I teams in the country with a reported average home attendance of 4,874. The team also generated $ 391,648 in ticket revenue that season.
The UNM men’s basketball team ranked second in Mountain West for the 2019-20 season and 33rd out of 354 Division I teams nationally with a reported average home attendance of 10,992 per game. The team grossed $ 3.5 million in ticket revenue that season.
UNM Athletics reported a total of $ 4.9 million in ticket revenue for all of its sports in fiscal 2020 – monies not specifically earmarked for any particular sport, although Lobo men’s basketball follows the national norm of spending far more money on salaries on the men’s side than on the women’s side.
By virtue of Title IX, all universities, including the UNM, are required to offer equal facilities, game times, travel budgets, and amenities in order to like programs – in this case, the men’s and women’s basketball teams, which have essentially the same types of locker rooms and access to facilities in the pit.
Title IX for NCAA Athletics does not cover ticket prices.
In the last full season in the pit, men’s hoops ticket sales generated more revenue than ticket sales for any other lobo sport, according to budget figures reported to the UNM Board of Regents. Football tickets took second place this year at $ 963,904. Women’s basketball finished third, and all other sports, including those whose spring seasons are out, grossed just $ 29,988.
Tweeting about Lobo Athletics is not the rule for Egolf. According to his Twitter account – @BrianEgolf – he posted 2,507 tweets.
The only time the @UNMLobos account was ever tagged on one of its posts was the October 27 tweet about season ticket prices.
There was no mention of “Lobo” and only one that included the term “Lobos” which he published on March 17, 2012. That was the day the Lobo men’s basketball team lost a close NCAA tournament game to Louisville (59-56) in Louisville.
He wrote: “Although no one needed another reason to hate Louisville, we have one now. #lobos ”
Responses to his more recent post included several of Egolf supporters and Lobo Athletics supporters questioning his intentions or knowledge of UNM Athletics decision making, as well as numerous references to “supply and demand”.
“Come on Brian !! This tries to cause controversy where there isn’t, ”wrote one person. Another uses the hashtag #FakeOutrage.
One of the most vocal women’s basketball supporters each season, Will Warren asked the speaker why he never commented on the women’s basketball team winning the Mountain West Championship last season, even though they won all but two games outside of New Mexico played. He also invited Egolf to a game.