STEVENS: Lobo Tour Looks to Build Land of Lobos
Aug. 28, 2009
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Too often a university and its athletic department is associated and linked to the city in which that university is located. The University of New Mexico took steps -- literal steps -- throughout the summer of 2009 to make sure the citizens and communities of New Mexico realize that UNM and its Lobos proudly represent an entire state.
In other words, this is not the University of Albuquerque. The New Mexico Lobos plan to take additional steps in 2010 to make sure that message is carried to all corners of the Land of Enchantment. The goal? To make New Mexico the Land of Lobos.
The 2009 Lobo Country Tour, sponsored by the New Mexico Sports Authority, made stops this past summer in Farmington, Hobbs, Santa Fe, Gallup and Rio Rancho. The plans are to add additional stops in 2010.
"There is no question we own Albuquerque and are No. 1 in this area," said Kurt Esser, a UNM Associate Athletics Director in charge of external affairs. "But we want the entire state to realize that we represent New Mexico. We want to own the entire state, too.
"We want fans in other cities and communities to realize that they are important to us. We want them to think first about the University of New Mexico when they are considering higher education or athletics. We want a whole state of Lobos. We would like to extend this to campus recruiting in general."
The 2009 Lobo Tour kicked off in Gallup with football coach Mike Locksley, track coach Joe Franklin and men's soccer coach Jeremy Fishbein making the trip west. The tours included meet-and-greet receptions and clinics.
In Gallup, Farmington, Hobbs and Santa Fe, the Lobo Tour teamed up with Special Olympics to provide a day that was special for both Lobos and Olympians.
"Anytime you have a chance to spend time with Special Olympians, you are really the one who benefits," said Ray Birmingham, the Lobos' baseball coach.
"Sure, we are doing this to get the message out that the University of New Mexico represents the entire state, but often these tours come down to interacting with individuals and that's usually how sincerity is measured.
"We are sincere in saying Lobos want to embrace the entire state and that we really do care."
UNM hopes to expand the 2010 Lobo Tour by three or four more stops. One of those stops might stab into the heart of New Mexico State Aggies country: Las Cruces.
"The Lobo Tour is an important part of getting our story out to the state," said Paul Krebs, UNM's Vice President in charge of athletics: "We want people to realize that we are the flagship university of the state and not just Albuquerque. We care about Lobo fans in all areas of New Mexico and we want to cultivate more fans across the state.
"We believe that all New Mexico communities are important to our growth both as a university and as an athletics department. This tour helps get that message out."
Esser said a byproduct of the Lobo Tour is giving UNM coaches a chance to bond. "We got coaches out to each stop," he said. "Internally, there was good team building for us. We had coaches who used these trips to get to know each other, spend time together.
"On the Gallup trip, we had Mike Locksley, Joe Franklin and Jeremy Fishbein. Those guys didn't know each other that well and Mike is fairly new to the staff. They got to spend a couple of hours together. Our coaches got in front of potential donors and season-ticket holders and hopefully future fans. We felt the tour was a big success."
Obviously, a key aspect of the Lobo Tour is to expand UNM's fan base. But the New Mexico athlete is an important part of all UNM sports programs.
"You always want to recruit and keep the quality athletes in your state," said Birmingham. "That priority is at the top of our recruiting goals.
"The New Mexico athlete is important to our program and to all Lobo programs. I'm sure this tour helps get that message out. When they load the bus next summer, I'll already be on it."