Stevens: Branches Say Branch Field Is Symbol & A Rally Cry

Aug. 6, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

The Lobo field that will bear the name "Branch Field," stood as an unfinished backdrop as Turner and Margaret Branch discussed what motivated them to donate $1.5 million to New Mexico Athletics for the naming rights to the artificial surface.

It had nothing to do with ego and a whole lot to do with a belief in an athletics director, in a football coach, in a university -- and in the future.

"At my age, I'm not interested in self-glorification," said Turner Branch, a local attorney and a UNM graduate. "I'm beyond that.

"I'm 73-years-old and I'm more interested in making a statement, in starting a rally cry to get more people out to support this program. It might take us a few years to get to where we want to be, but I think we're going to have a team that we'll be proud of immediately, that won't quit, and that will fight.

"I think in three seasons we'll stop saying, `Wait until next year.' But we need a community to get involved."

Turner and Margaret Branch were honored Monday in a gathering held on the third floor of the Lobo football complex - the L.F. "Tow" Diehm Athletics Facility.

As they stood before the crowd and discussed their belief in the future of the Lobo football program, the surface of University Stadium was being prepped for the turf that will be first tested on Sept. 1 when Southern University visits.

Turner Branch hopes a community will pass a test, too. He challenged Lobo boosters and Lobo fans to step up and do their part in helping Coach Bob Davie build his program.

"It's time to get people out here, get this stadium filled, and back Coach Davie and his staff," said Branch. "I believe we have a coach who is dedicated to staying here and not interested in going anywhere else.

"I believe Coach Davie wants to put his name on this program and this university. I think he'll do it. I think it's his last (coaching) stop and I think it will be his most impressive stop."

Branch said the donation from he and his wife was as much a symbol as it was a check. Paul Krebs, UNM's Vice President for Athletics, emphasized that message.

"This gift symbolizes support, symbolizes belief in a program and in Coach Davie," said Krebs. "I think they are inspiring others to get involved; sending a message to the rest of our community. They believe in UNM athletics and they believe in our football program.

"This gift is incredibly significant to our student-athletes, to our program. I think the gift comes at an incredibly important time. There is no question that we've gone through some very rough times in our football program."

Another part of Turner Branch's message reflected on the duality of a university as an institution of higher learning and also as an academic symbol for a state. There is UNM pride in academic achievement. There is New Mexico pride in athletic recognition.

"It's not going to be an easy turnaround, but it will turnaround," said Branch. "I believe we have the right man to turn it around."

Margaret and Turner Branch have made significant contributions to Lobo athletics for more than 30 years. Margaret played golf for UNM. Turner played football. The real ground breaking ceremony for "Branch Field" will come when Southern University battles Davie's Lobos on Sept. 1 in UNM's season opener. The Branches will be recognized during halftime.

Branch Field is a state-of-the-art, synthetic field that was built with the support of the New Mexico legislature and Governor Susana Martinez. The naming rights for "Branch Field" are effective for the next 15 years.

Turner Branch is a 1960 graduate of the University of New Mexico, where he served as president of the student body. He was a member of Phi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honors Society, and was president of his social fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha - where he continues to be an active and supportive alumnus.

He graduated from Baylor Law School in 1965, where he was editor of the Baylor Law Review and received the T.R. McDonald Award as the outstanding law student.

His wife, Margaret, received her undergraduate degree from the University of New Mexico with honors in 1975. Mrs. Branch was student body president, was an active member of the Chi Omega sorority, which she is still active in today as an alumnus, and participated on the UNM golf team. Margaret received her law degree in 1978 from the University of New Mexico School of Law.

Together, they own and operate the Branch Law Firm - which Turner established in 1966.