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New Mexico Football Team Spending Around $70K Per Week to Play amid COVID-19

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistNovember 11, 2020

A helmet of the New Mexico Lobos is pictured during an NCAA college football game between New Mexico and Air Force in Albuquerque, N.M., Saturday, Sep. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
Andres Leighton/Associated Press

The University of New Mexico is spending nearly $70,000 per week to play its football games in Las Vegas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic, New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nunez said he is willing to pay that amount of money to have the team play games because it will result in a large payout down the road in distributions from the Mountain West Conference and the College Football Playoff.

"If I'm going to spend $300,000 to put our team in Las Vegas, but I know that at the end of the day, I'm going to get $3.7 million or zero [to not play at all], I think I'd go for 3.7," he said. "To give our kids a chance to play with the circumstances we were dealing with [in the state of New Mexico], it was the right decision."

The eight-game conference-only schedule for Mountain West teams began Oct. 24, but the Lobos found themselves in a bind. Their opening game against Colorado State was canceled because of a spike in COVID-19 cases in Bernalillo County, New Mexico.

Nunez announced Oct. 30 that the football team was moving its operations to Las Vegas, where it will play games at Sam Boyd Stadium, home of fellow Mountain West program UNLV. He told Auerbach the $70,000 being spent each week is used to keep "about 140 people tied to the New Mexico football program living out of the Hilton right now."

The student-athletes are able to attend their classes virtually, but Auerbach noted doing so requires them to wake up an hour earlier because of the time difference between Albuquerque and Las Vegas.

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The Lobos have played their first two games of the season on the road against San Jose State and Hawaii. Saturday's contest against Nevada will mark their first game in their adopted home for the 2020 season.