New Mexico will long remember its game against Texas-El Paso. Not so much for the victory it got, but for the two phone calls.
"The events of the day supersede a great win," Lobos coach Dave Bliss said.The Lobos beat UTEP 80-74 Saturday night in a Western Athletic Conference game delayed for an hour by two telephoned bomb threats that forced the evacuation of the standing room-only crowd of 18,100 from University Arena.
Authorities said there was no indication the Persian Gulf war was in any way linked to the bomb threats, made in telephone calls shortly after the game began to the University of New Mexico police headquarters and Albuquerque police.
New Mexico athletic director Gary Ness said the caller made no reference to the war.
University police Capt. Alex Roybal said both calls apparently were placed by the same man. Albuquerque police were able to trace the second call to a telephone booth, but no arrests were made.
"It was an unknown male caller who said, `There's a bomb set to go off in The Pit (University Arena) 10 minutes into the second half,"' Roybal said. "Obviously it was the same person because the guy said he had called UNM, and he didn't think UNM was taking him seriously, so he called APD."
The game, televised nationally by ESPN, did not start until 10 p.m. MDT. Within seconds after the halftime buzzer sounded, the capacity crowd was advised to evacuate the building, and some 50 police officers moved in to search.
A search of the arena, whose playing floor is 37 feet below ground level, failed to turn up any trace of an explosive, and the game resumed shortly after midnight.
"We tried to stay mentally tough," Bliss said of the long halftime. "I know it's a cliche, but we had to keep the focus on what our focus was." He added that Lobo forward Vladimir McCrary remarked, "only the Orange Bowl had a longer halftime than ours."
"Certainly it was a distraction, a monumental distraction."
New Mexico, which led 40-31 at halftime, got 16 points from 7-foot-2 center Luc Longley in the final 20 minutes to stave off the Miners.
"I'll remember this one for a long time," Longley said. "You certainly tighten up when you sit around that long. You lose your concentration. The bomb threat helped me because I was tired. It gave me a chance to rest."