Early December is typically the beginning of the college football coaching carousel and this past week was no different.
At the time of this writing, there were 10 FBS programs who are looking for a new head coach, including the other Division I football program in the state of New Mexico.
According to New Mexico State athletics director Mario Moccia, the Aggies will not be seeking a new head football coach this offseason.
Each situation is different, and there are significant differences between the programs who pulled the trigger on firing a head coach and the New Mexico State football program.
In the past season, I have had conversations with people who believe Aggies head coach Doug Martin should have a statue built outside of Aggie Memorial Stadium for becoming the second head coach to win a bowl game in the history of a losing football program.
Just as many want to make a change and hope for something different.
Regardless of who the head coach is and what your personal feelings regarding style of play, who is on the field, and what state they are from, there is also a financial piece to the puzzle that cannot be ignored.
If NM State was to consider making a change, Martin has two years remaining on his contract. A buyout of Martin's contract and the Aggies assistant coaching staff would be in the neighborhood of $1.3 million and that is before hiring a new coach and staff, according to Moccia.
Moccia is also under a state mandate to balance the university athletic department's budget each year, which includes an internal debt payment to main campus.
That's a reality --- just as Martin's 22-63 record at NM State is a reality.
Moccia took the time to answer a few questions following the Aggies' 2-10 finish to the 2019 football season and what it could mean moving forward:
Las Cruces Sun-News: What would you tell folks who believe the program has not improved, or gotten worse in the two years since a bowl berth in 2017?
Moccia: I look at Aggies football from a historical standpoint. I don't know what people want to pinpoint as the modern era, but going back 51 years, I think we have had five seasons of .500 or better football (NM State has had seven seasons since 1969 with a .500 or better record) . ... In that period of time, Doug was one of those coaches who got a seven-win season and was invited to a bowl game and won a bowl game. I have no doubt that he can do that again because he's done it once before under more difficult circumstances meaning he was coming off the DeWayne Walker and Hal Mumme eras and beyond who never received bowl invitations.
LCSN: What is your general take on the season considering the difficulty of the schedule and the challenges of playing independent football?
Moccia: When you have to play three buy games and they are right off the bat against Washington State and Alabama, that 100 percent goes into my thinking about how I evaluate things. When Aggie football ascends to a level where we don't have to do that and can schedule like our direct competitors, then I might start looking at the football program through a more critical lens. But since I don't have the luxury of doing that, then that is the lens that I'm going to use in judging our football program.
LCSN: So looking ahead at the 2020 schedule, while it's not necessary to say, "bowl game or bust," would you say there is more of an expectation to progress?
Moccia: I would say the schedule has more like opponents. I would certainly hope for and expect an improved record. I'm not a guy who says you have to win 'X' amount of games or else because seasons unfold how they unfold.
LCSN: Martin has consistently stated the need for facilities. Facilities are obviously an issue for all programs at New Mexico State and would greatly enhance recruiting. But what would you say to folks who want to see better results before justifying better facilities?
Moccia: I would push back a little bit to say those can't be overlooked.
Let's look at our competition. UNM unveiled a brand new scoreboard. I know they re-did their locker room. I do think facilities matter.
All of us know what our limitations are from a financial standpoint. Internally, we just need to discuss what issues can we realistically fix. We did a little bit of a cost of attendance. We know that we want to get that air conditioning (in the football lockerroom) addressed. Our headsets against Liberty went out three different times. We need to be able to get on our practice field. (Making repairs to the current) grass practice field has to be a priority. I think those are realistic goals of how can we get some money to fix this. There are things that we can focus on and there are big ticket items we wish we had and those can be internal things we can discuss.
LCSN: How important is it for the football coach to be visible in the community?
Moccia: I think any head coach needs to promote the program, especially in a smaller community that maybe does not have a massive media presence. ... A Brian Green (former NM State baseball coach) was always out there. We have had other coaches who haven't been out there as much. I think it's incumbent on the athletic administration to put the coach in those situations. I think the proof is in the pudding. We beat UTEP and it was a close game. We had a tremendous amount of people in the stands. I think that shows you that the community will come out and support so it's really incumbent on the head coach, the athletic director, the assistant coaches to get out there and sell the program, ask people to come to games. We won the game and I really think in part because there was a tremendous crowd.
Sports Editor Jason Groves can be reached at 575-541-5459 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jpgroves. For more New Mexico State athletics coverage, make sure to subscribe.