Oct. 20, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It is a relationship with pens, papers, calculators and Lobos that has lasted longer than 95 percent of U.S. marriages.
It is a relationship that began in 1959, when if you didn't want to go see Marv Levy's Lobos play football or Bob Sweeney's Lobos play basketball, you could pull two bucks out of your wallet and go see Charleton Heston in "Ben Hur" or Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like It Hot."
It was the year two monkeys returned safely from space and two University of New Mexico students walked into the Lobos' one-man sports information office and accepted jobs as statisticians for Lobo football and Lobo basketball.
It was a time before The Pit, a time before University Stadium, a time when gas was 25 cents.
It was the year the Mattel toy company put out a hot doll named "Barbie," the year when Cuba welcomed in a bearded leader named Castro, the year the music died in an airplane crash that killed Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.
It was a long time ago, but Saturday when the Lobos welcome UNLV into University Stadium, Barry Cole and Butch Nunn will be in the high press box doing their thing with yardages, downs, carries, etc.
One good thing about the change in times and centuries: "The pay has gotten better," said Cole. "We used to get $2 a game and two free tickets."
Actually, the pay probably hasn't kept up with inflation. Cole and Barry get $30 a game, but this isn't a job of concentration and no cheering that you do for the big bucks.
"I enjoy it and I enjoy the atmosphere that surrounds Lobo athletics," said Nunn. "It's a way to keep your hands involved in the Lobos and in athletics."
Said Cole: "You get really good seats."
Nunn, 67, came to UNM in 1959 as an ex-jock from Alamogordo, who blew out a knee and decided to concentrate on being a UNM student. "My college roommate worked in the SID office and he told me they were looking for some help," said Nunn. "I'm still there."
Cole, 69, actually was recruited to play football at UNM, but quickly decided he needed to make a decision on whether to be an ineligible athlete or an eligible student.
"It took me about one semester for me to learn that if I didn't give up football, I would flunk out," said Nunn, a Chicago lad from Lane Technical High. "I didn't realize school required so much work.
"I also learned I didn't want to go back to the cold of Chicago. When I went home for Easter, I told my mother I didn't know where I was going to live after college, but it wasn't Chicago."
It was New Mexico and Albuquerque. Ditto for Nunn.
They both put in their time with the Albuquerque Public Schools System (APS), retired, but didn't give up those lucrative jobs in the Lobo press box and on press row. Cole also manages APS' Milne Stadium three nights a week.
"Those guys have been stalwarts in a behind-the-scenes part of the game for longer than most people can remember," said Greg Remington, a UNM Associate Athletics Director in charge of media relations. "To do what they have done for as long as they have done it is amazing. UNM is truly indebted to them."
Cole remembers some of his early games in Johnson Gym. "There weren't that many people at the games, so we didn't even pull the bleachers out," he said. "They would turn off the lights and introduce the players with spotlights. I had to hold a flashlight for the announcer so he could read the names."
When Cole and Nunn did their stats thing at old Zimmerman Field on the UNM main campus, they had to climb into the wooden press box through a trap door. "I like elevators better," said Cole.
Yeah, times were tough, but those good seats on press row sometimes put you right into the action. Cole remembers one time the action included a coin bag thrown by former Utah Ute basketball coach Rick Majerus. Still, the Utes' Round of Mound goes down as maybe their favorite enemy of Lobos.
"I was always fascinated by Majerus, just watching him and realizing his knowledge of the game," said Nunn. "The Lobos would come down on offense and Majerus would tell his team exactly what the Lobos would do and where the shot would come from."
Said Cole: "He would call the play while it was still developing. He would say, `Lobo 42,' or something like that. He knew every play. I never saw another coach do anything like that."
Oddly, Cole and Nunn made only one Lobo road trip as Lobo fans. It was to a Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas. It was a testing change for two guys conditioned to sit on press row, keep their mouths shut, and concentrate on stats.
"You can express yourself a little bit better as fans, but we didn't know how to act," said Nunn.
Said Cole: "We weren't very good fans."
Cole and Barry are, however, pretty good stat guys. But their job has changed more than simply exchanging trap doors for elevators. It's the age of high-tech: computers, gadgets and things. But Barry and Nunn still get to use paper and pencils. They have erasers rather than delete buttons.
"We are part of the department of redundancy," said Nunn. "We are the backup to the computers. We still do all of our stuff on paper, in case something goes wrong."
Yeah, computers sometimes crash. So far, from 1959 until today, Nunn and Barry haven`t crashed.
"I'll probably keep doing it as long as I have the energy to walk up and down The Pit's ramp and still have the energy to stay awake," said Cole."
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner