LAS CRUCES — Garrey Carruthers, one of five finalists for president at New Mexico State University, said during an open forum last week that he was open to the idea of moving the football team down to a lower division or perhaps even dropping the program all together.
Amidst discussion of academia, leadership and fundraising, Aggie athletics — particularly football — has also been an important topic during the presidential search. Two of the five candidates — Elsa Murano and Daniel Howard — will have their open-forum sessions early this week.
Carruthers sad he has already had discussions about dropping to a lower division in football.
"I've actually had conversations with people in the Big Sky Conference," Carruthers said, referring to a league in the Football Championship Subdivision. "That's sort of a notch below in football. They're not eligible for BCS bowls. But what do you think our prospects of getting (to) a BCS bowl anytime soon will be anyway? Not great. I think there's some other conferences around, where our athletics budget would actually be at the top of the list instead of at the bottom in terms of how much money we're spending."
Carruthers added, "I do know there's a limit to how much money we can spend. And that limit is probably what we're spending right now. We have to find a conference we're comfortable in financially."
Carruthers said during the public forum that he would also consider dropping football altogether.
"The rest of our sports are doing rather well, believe it or not," he said. "Maybe we should be a minor-sport (program) .... Somebody even mentioned to me yesterday, maybe we should drop football. Maybe one of the options is just stay the course and just join the Missouri Valley (Conference) and play all the sports they play. ... That's an option we need to take a look at. The most expensive sport is football, and probably the least successful at the moment."
However, during a subsequent interview, Carruthers said he would prefer to have a full sports program.
"I think it's great for the university," he said, adding that he's a fan of new head football coach Doug Martin.
"We've been playing football here for a long, long time and I anticipate we will continue doing that," he said. "But we also have to figure out how to get people flowing into the stands."
Martin, who was hired in February, said since his arrival, the administration has been "fantastic" in committing to the football program.
"We've increased the nutrition for the players, we've gotten that second strength coach," Martin said. "They've made a real committment to my (coaching) staff. ... I couldn't be happier with the commitment we've made, and plans to do even more. We're not done yet. We can have a really good Division-IA football program here, we can have a competitive football program here. We've just got to put things in the right order."
Here is what the three presidential candidates who have been on campus for public forums thus far have said regarding the football program:
Ph.D., vice president for economic development and dean, College of Business, New Mexico State University.
"Athletics is a business and it ought to be run like a business. They're one of the few places that can control their own revenue stream by how many people come to the games, how well they market it .... That's a business that .... needs adequate promotion. This community has not demonstrated recently that it's going to come out to football games. ... When you're 1-11, why bother? There are a lot of options on TV. We have to correct that."
Ph.D., professor of English and former president, University of Alabama and Texas Tech University
"There are two keys to success. One of them is to get into a conference where the TV contract provides you some revenue. .... You can't get in the right conference unless you have competitive football. .... You have to point out to people, the business community profits dramatically — If you look at State College, Penn., those merchants make their money off Penn State football. Same thing's true in Tuscalusa, (Ala.) even Lubbock, (Texas). On a Saturday, when you have 60,000 people there, that's 60,000 people eating at restaurants, staying in hotels, buying gasoline. .... We need to continue to work to get complete community support of the athletics program."
Ph.D., professor of engineering and former president, University of Nevada-Las Vegas
"I'm from UNLV. We have a comparable football record. I'm aware of that. But I think what's a bigger issue is the television market. What's driving a lot of these decisions is what kind of a market you can bring with your conference membership. .... In some sense, success is a real component of getting a larger market. .... The primary thing is to never forget that they're student athletes. .... (At UNLV) I changed the whole academic advising system for student athletes. .... I brought all academic advising into the university environment."
Elsa A. Murano
Ph.D., interim director of the Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, professor and president emerita, Texas A&M University, will have upcoming forums: 4 p.m. Monday at Corbett Center Auditorium (open forum); 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Center for the Arts (public reception); and 8:15 a.m. Tuesday at Corbett Center Senate Chambers (student forum.)
Daniel J. Howard
Ph.D., dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of integrative biology, University of Colorado Denver, will have upcoming forums 4 p.m. Wednesday at Corbett Center Auditorium (open forum); 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Center for the Arts (public reception) and 8:15 a.m. Thursday at Corbett Center Senate Chambers (student forum.)
— Both the open and student forums will be webcast at http://panopto.nmsu.edu/pressearch/.
— There will be refreshments served at the student forums so students who attend can grab something to eat on their way to classes.
— For those who plan to participate in the open forum via webcast, questions for the finalists can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Additional information on the finalists, including a full interview schedule, is available on the presidential search website at http://www.nmsu.edu/pressearch/.