ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Will fans cheer, or will they jeer? That’s the big question tonight, as coaches Steve Alford and Craig Neal return to the pit this time as visitors.
As soon as it was announced that Steve Alford was going to Nevada many expected the match-up between the Lobos here would be a sellout but that doesn’t seem to be the case tonight.
“It’s going to be a harsh atmosphere at the game tonight,” says Michael Yannoni. That’s because for the first time in nearly seven years once-beloved coaching duo Steve Alford and Craig Neal return to The Pit.
“We’ve got a lot of people saying that they’re going to support the team and they wanna kinda make it uncomfortable for him, “Yannoni says.
Former head coach Steve Alford ditched the Lobos in 2013 for a head coaching job at UCLA after six winning seasons at UNM. But some fans still aren’t over it.
“People are not really happy with how he left,” Yannoni says.
Neal took over after Alford left for four seasons but was eventually ousted. Tonight Lobo fans are hoping to get some revenge when Alford and Neal walk down the ramp and onto the pit floor once again but instead of stopping at the Lobo bench they’ll walk to the visitor’s side as head coach and assistant coach of the Nevada Wolfpack.
“Yeah, I don’t know if that’s fun. You know, just because how much New Mexico and that place means to me and my family. I think that is always hard,” Alford says.
Tuesday, we caught fans buying last minute tickets. “I know there are a lot of students saying we are going to be at the game an hour early just so we can get good seats close to them so we can start talking and getting in their heads,” Yannoni says.
The game was expected to be a sell-out. But so far just under 11,000 tickets have been sold. Students believe there could a number of reasons for the dwindling fan base.
“I just don’t want to associate myself with an organization that doesn’t hold their student-athletes accountable,” Jessica Kapi says.
“I don’t think they promote it a lot. Like they should promote more if they wanna like sell out,” Nathan Garcia says.
The Wolfpack also has three other former Lobos on their staff. Two former players and a team manager. The last sellout at ‘The Pit’ was Hugh Greenwood’s senior night in March 2015 almost five years ago.