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Copyright 2014 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)
Ken Sickenger Journal Staff Writer

Fans are having their say about the UNM women's basketball program these days.

With attendance declining and the 2013-14 team struggling, fans have voiced objections about everything from the coaching staff to Mountain West scheduling to parking fees.

Believe it or not, that's what school administrators want.

Athletic director Paul Krebs formed a task force during the season charged with reversing dwindling home attendance at women's basketball games. The committee's goal is to improve the game experience, which makes step one listening to fans.

Roughly 100 fans turned out to meet with committee members prior to UNM's final home game against San Diego State. Fans were asked not to talk about players or coaches but to offer suggestions about how to make home games more enjoyable.

Responses included:

-Allow fans to occupy unsold Lobo Level seats. (Most of the 326 seats nearest the floor on the Pit's west side were empty during games this season.)

-Increase promotions that bring youth groups to games.

-Improve the Pit environment through halftime entertainment, pep band performance and expanded food options.

-Reduce or eliminate parking fees.

Senior associate athletic directors Janice Ruggiero and Brad Hutchins were among the committee members present at the March 7 meeting. Both found the fans' input productive.

"People had some great ideas," Ruggiero said. "Simple things like halftime entertainment, getting fans into (Lobo Club) seats and just having better communication with our fans, those are things we needed to hear."

Many fans were unaware donation levels needed to purchase Lobo Level seating were reduced last season or that parking fees were cut or eliminated in some lots, Ruggiero said.

The task force holds no influence over the coaching staff - a primary source of dissatisfaction for some fans. Krebs and Ruggiero evaluate women's basketball coaches at each season's end.

Ruggiero cut off complaints about head coach Yvonne Sanchez during the fan meeting but has since met individually with some to hear their concerns.

Season-ticket holder Ross Perkal was part of one group that met with Ruggiero.

Others in the group had dropped their tickets because of dissatisfaction with UNM's coaching, said Perkal, who listed lack of team improvement and Sanchez's poor in-game body language among his group's complaints.

"We made our points and there was some creative feedback," Perkal said. "I felt like we were listened to."


March 25, 2014




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