A local libertarian think tank is suggesting something drastic that isn’t sitting well with many: to combine UNM and NMSU sports to save taxpayers money and put a focus on higher education.

“The idea is higher education should focus on doing what it does, which is education, that sports need to be reevaluated at New Mexico’s major universities,” Paul Gessing said.

The Rio Grande Foundation released a 10-page report this week questioning the priority of costly sports teams for taxpayer-funded public institutions in New Mexico.

“So maybe there could be a way to combine forces,” he told KRQE News 13. “I realize that would send Aggie fans and Lobo fans right over the edge, but what could be better to unify the state than to have all New Mexicans supporting one, hopefully, competitive college football while not costing the taxpayers or students at either school so much money?”

Gessing, president of the think tank, points to the state’s biggest two schools and its biggest two sports, football and basketball. He draws on the financial problems that have plagued UNM athletics in particular.

He admits the idea to combine sports teams is more of a statement-maker than it is a tangible idea—but he says something needs to change so that higher education comes before supporting semi-pro athletic teams.

It’s not clear whether this radical idea would even be approved by the NCAA. There are no known examples of this happening in college sports history.

Gessing also suggests just eliminating sports altogether.

UNM sent KRQE News 13 a statement from Athletic Director Eddie Nunez, saying there are many reasons why the universities, separated by a couple hundred miles, would not do that. One being the NCAA likely wouldn’t approve it. 

NMSU did not respond to requests for comment by deadline. However, Gessing points to a quote by NMSU’s athletic director in 2015 saying he believes the football program is worth the cost even if it’s not turning a “profit.”