ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It was a sea of red as 14,534 fans packed The Pit on Sunday afternoon. It was a near sellout to see Richard Pitino and the Lobos take on his dad, Rick Pitino, and his Iona team.

“If they get crowds like this every game, they are going to be tough to beat,” said Rick Pitino.

“It was an unbelievable experience and I’m glad fans enjoyed themselves and made it that magic that we’ve always wanted,” said Eddie Nuñez, Athletic Director for UNM.

Thirteen hundred of the fans in the stands were students, which is an encouraging number for the leader of the new student fan club, the Howl Raisers. “It was crazy. That’s how it should be every game,” said Nolan Murphy, founder of the Howl Raisers. “It gets to a point where the fans are so loud you can’t hear yourself think.”

The Lobos hadn’t topped the 14,000 mark since the NMSU rivalry game in 2019. While it is worth noting the pandemic puts a snag in the statistics for recent years, The Pit has seen attendance slide since it was averaging about 15,000 fans a game a decade ago. Last season, they averaged about 8,700 fans a game.

“That’s the first time, that I’ve seen The Pit truly like The Pit like people would always tell me about,” said Nuñez.

While dollars are still being counted, one-game ticket and parking sales, suite sales, concessions, and merchandise brought in $275,000-$290,000. That estimate does not include season ticket, season parking, and season suite sales.

“It really starts building our athletics department. We’re so dependent on self-generated revenue and that’s a big key,” said Nuñez. He also noted the revenue from a big turnout like this goes beyond the campus.

“The restaurants were full before and after, you start seeing people who came down from upstate or down south to come here and stay in hotels because we knew many that did,” he said. “The economic impact that sporting events like the New Mexico Bowl, like how our basketball game had last night, are huge. And it’s big for the whole state and our community.”

But for Nuñez, most importantly, he wants a packed Pit for the players. “What it really is, is for those kids who deserve the opportunity to be able to play in front of what they’ve always seen, of what they’ve heard of as The Pit magic,” he said.

“I’m on the bench and I could feel the crowd in my heart. I could feel it in my chest. I could feel everything on the ground. It’s shaking,” said KJ Jenkins, guard for the UNM Men’s Basketball team.

Nuñez said they are going to focus on marketing, promotions, and bringing a solid fan experience to keep the momentum going. The Lobos are now 11-0 and one of five unbeaten teams out of more than 360 division one schools. They’re ranked just outside the top 25 and are climbing.