Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

5-8 New Mexico Bowl

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- What a good idea. A college bowl game for New Mexico. Who would have thought of our little state hosting a bowl game?
Apparently no one thought much about it until Gov. Bill Richardson got things rolling in January.
A consultant said he might be able to help get a game next year for $40,000. Instead, Richardson turned it over to Dennis Latta and the New Mexico Sports Authority and we have a game for this year.
Latta says it cost only $40. Sending a delegation to Orlando, Fla. to make a presentation to the NCAA Bowl Licensing Committee definitely would cost more than $40.
Government employees aren't accustomed to covering their own expenses while on official business. But Latta likely means we'd have had those expenses even with a $40,000 consultant.
This column took on the governor for trying to attract a National Football League franchise, but we applaud him for this effort. It was achievable and many community groups quickly climbed on board.
The bowl became almost a sure score when ESPN joined the effort with the $2 million letter of credit required for bowl applicants. ESPN even led the presentation team.
What made a bowl game in New Mexico such a good idea? Mainly because it had all the right players enthusiastically behind it. Besides ESPN, which also brought along the assurance of television coverage, the athletic conferences in which New Mexico's two biggest colleges play will provide the teams for the game.
ESPN says it would like to see either the University of New Mexico or New Mexico State in the game every three years. At least a 6-6 record is required to be bowl eligible. Rocky Long usually has his UNM team a little above that. NMSU is sure to improve on its 0-12 record this past season.
UNM's support also was important. It sometimes isn't too excited about professional teams coming into the area and creating competition for the sports spectator dollar. But this is a once-a-year event that will be held at University Stadium.
The lack of competition from big time pro sports that is faced by many other bowls also makes Albuquerque attractive. The New Mexico Bowl will be the only game in town.
But it will take much work. To remain sanctioned, bowls must bring in an average of 25,000 paying customers a year over a three-year period. Several bowls have failed.
UNM's stadium holds just under 39,000 fans. With the momentum that has been built, the chances of filling it are good. To help out, the NCAA has placed an upper limit of $30 on a ticket.
With the top bowl games running up to 10 times that amount, this is quite a bargain. And with the popularity of those bowls, many tickets are resold for well over $1,000.
And that brings up a sore point. Last December the state Tourism Department was eligible to purchase some $175 end-zone seats for the Rose Bowl because New Mexico entered a float in the Rose Parade.
Those tickets were then sold at-cost to "selected" people. That was the term used by some political writers in the state who assumed that the select few were friends of Gov. Richardson.
A few tickets were used for promotional purposes, the remainder were sold to New Mexicans who volunteered to travel to Pasadena at their own expense and put in at least two eight-hour shifts decorating New Mexico's entry in the Rose Parade.
Role was taken at each shift. There were more people than tickets available so those who had put in their request first got to purchase the tickets, but only if they had put in their two shifts.
Since I happened to have over 25 years of float building experience, I was asked to help recruit workers willing to spend a week in Pasadena at their own expense.
I can testify that the great majority of those workers are Republicans, who have never given a cent to Bill Richardson. They went because they have pride in New Mexico.
MON, 5-8-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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