UNM held its annual homecoming festivities and I went to the big game. I've eschewed the cherry and silver over the years, but as an alum occasionally think on “the Harvard on the Rio Grande”—especially when it affects the greater Albuquerque community. And while certain aspects of the school are on the rise —perhaps even the perennially losing Lobo football squad, it’s shocking to have confirmation that it’s still scandalous-
I was thrilled to have access to University Stadium for the match-up featuring the Lobos and Hawaii's Rainbow Warriors. It's been eight years since New Mexico had a winning season. And though the program's lifted itself out of the nadir suffered under Mike Locksley, three years of sub-par performance under the direction of Notre Dame veteran Bob Davie has led to shrinking attendance numbers and a general decline in team spirit at home games.
But, the parking lot showed no sign of resignation nor the wanly dispirited remnants of a fan base as my friend and I approached. Red flags with silver trim were waving, cottonwoods swayed in the breeze, students gamboled across multiple grassy and concrete surfaces and old-timers stopped and took selfies of themselves amidst the fall foliage. The sounds of two marching bands—warming up and getting down—gave the environs a carnival-like atmosphere. The smell of fried food added to the surrounding circus.
We had great seats right on the 50-yard line. The game was tumultuous, even Shakespearean in its war-like drama and foreboding. I cursed at the heavens (as night had fallen), at the luck of the home team and was rebuked by several fans who were afraid their children might find such verbiage both disheartening and disgraceful.
At half-time, with the Lobos trailing 24-14 I duly apologized for my language. I excused myself from the stands to purchase and eat some fry bread and a corn dog slathered in mustard. It was damn good eating but I was distracted from my gastronomical reverie. I noticed the crowd thinning and folks walking toward the gates with their heads bowed.
Even as the Lobo marching band strutted triumphantly, even as three different cheerleading squads urged the audience to buck up and wait for a glorious second half, people began to go. It was a trickle, but by the time I got back to my seat, I noticed how easy the navigation had become, how a mid-size crowd inured to failure if not profanity was in the process of moving on.
Interestingly, the Lobos came back at the last minute.
After much of their audience—which mostly seemed like UNM employees with a few undergrads thrown in for sauce—had vacated the stands and with less than a minute remaining, the Lobos found vindication in the hands of reserve quarterback Austin Apodaca and wide receiver Dameon Gamblin. Their 28 yard double-move pass combo lifted the Lobos to victory 28-27 and I went home feeling like UNM was all right after all.
But my feelings of pride and triumph were short-lived. The next morning, I read the Albuquerque Journal. Since victory was ours (I felt affiliated again, by gum!) I skipped the sports section and went right for the heart of matters, skimming over a compendium of local news. And there it was, tragic news about the College of Fine Arts, the source of my identity as a Lobo.
Brad Ellingboe, a tenured professor in the music department, had an affair with a high-level administrator of the UNM Foundation, Samantha Starr. The affair ended badly; afterwards Starr began a pattern of harassment against Ellingboe and his family, according to officials at UNM. Subsequently, a wide-ranging investigation was launched. The investigation found that the relationship was consensual and that although Starr had done the post-love hating, Ellingboe had not engaged in similar behavior.
But the report went on to note evidence suggested that Ellingboe had “more likely than not” engaged in consensual sexual relations with two former students and another professor (he vehemently denies these presumptions), had fraudulently charged some private travel expenses to the university (since repaid) and most disconcertingly, “The internal audit found that he inappropriately sent and received at least 442 sexual images from the internet and e-mails on his university-issued computer—which he wiped of data before turning it in to the school’s investigators.” Ouch.
Ellingboe was “allowed” to retire in June, which is a damn sight more dignified a fate than what one presumes he would have gotten from fans disappointed in eight years of missed chances and poor scores. Though the former professor admits he misused his official e-mail account and though Fine Arts Dean Kymberly Pinder stated “At no time was the mission of the music department or the College of Fine Arts compromised…” it's clear that Ellingboe's lapses in judgment and behavior have tarnished the school's shine in a way which makes a struggling football team's ups and downs look radically insignificant in comparison.