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New Mexico State's FBS Dreams Are Rapidly Fading

NMSU's one last gasp at FBS relevancy may have been squelched before it really began.

If there's anyone who can save NMSU football, it's Larry Rose III
If there's anyone who can save NMSU football, it's Larry Rose III
Todd Bennett/Getty Images

For the longest time, New Mexico State Aggies football was a sad sack laughing stock of the Sun Belt, WAC, and Sun Belt again. Somewhere around 8000 fans (or less) were gracing a comparably cavernous 30,000 seat stadium, the football program was being described by Bill Connelly as something befitting a Franciscan monk being sent into the wilderness, and we were making up drinking games to mock their in-house television channel that was somehow even cornier than a "Better Call Saul" ad.

These are the records of their last 10 head coaches since Warren Woodson, the last head coach to finish with a winning record in his tenure with the team all the way back in 1967:

Coach Name Years Coached NMSU Record
Jim Wood 1968-1972 21-30-1
Jim Bradley 1973-1977 23-31-1
Gil Krueger 1978-1982 17-37-1
Fred Zechman 1983-1985 9-24
Mike Knoll 1986-1989 4-40
Jim Hess 1990-1996 22-55
Tony Samuel 1997-2004 34-57
Hal Mumme 2005-2008 11-38
DeWayne Walker 2009-2012 10-40
Doug Martin 2013-Present 7-29

NMSU is the very definition of a coaching graveyard, and hope for the program in 2015 was as low as ever.

Then, on last Halloween, despite seven straight losses and a crucial rash of injuries, NMSU beat Idaho in a wild overtime game and acquired a pulse. Larry Rose III then tore through the defenses of Texas State and Louisiana Lafayette(!), and suddenly started to get all sorts of low level attention nationally. It was a (very) brief flash of what was possible in Las Cruces, and it was extremely fun to watch.

Unfortunately for them, the Sun Belt dealt NMSU a massive blow by declining to accept them as a full member and effectively removing them from affiliate membership after 2018. It's a move that could strike down their potential ascent to respectability, and may have just made one of the toughest jobs in the country downright impossible.

PROS

  • Larry F'in Rose, the third. It's usually poor form to use a current player as an example for why a job is desirable long term, but he's a transcendent star player who can jump start a program. As long as he's there, NMSU has a legitimate shot of breaking their bowl drought.
  • Aggievision is turning into a legitimate operation that will help raise the program's cachet.
  • They have an excellent athletic director in Mario Moccia and a solid basketball program to help raise athletics's overall profile.
  • Texas is next door as a major recruiting pipeline.

CONS

  • It's not quite as isolated as Moscow, Idaho, but Las Cruces is out there. As in, you have to fly all the way out to El Paso, then drive another hour.
  • NMSU football has more often than not been a tale of unending, howling woes since the 1960 bowl appearance.
  • The Texas recruiting pipeline doesn't look so great when the major metro areas are a 10+ hour drive away. Any FBS-level talent that rarely comes out of New Mexico HS football usually goes to UNM or elsewhere, and UTEP's got the advantage on any rare FBS talent that comes out of El Paso.
  • They have no conference home after 2018, and it's unclear the FCS would be any better than FBS independence.

Making the case for why it should be higher than last: Nic Lewis, Managing Editor

It's pretty obvious, based on nothing more than the ability to put together a powerpoint that actually helps their cause when they are asked to do so, that NMSU should be above Idaho. There is most certainly not enough separation at the bottom to say that they should definitely be below Idaho or ULM. Both of those teams has either more uncertainty, less resources, or both.

From an overall quality of job perspective, the Aggies do not possess the following:

What they do have is an athletics department and university that are very frank about how and why they have struggled to matter in recent years and an athletic director who is willing to make changes in order to improve that status. They have a clear investment in their future; it's unknown how much that will actually pay off, but at least it is very clearly there.

If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...

You choose the NMSU job because you just got done building up Eastern Michigan into a 6 star dynasty and you decided you wanted another suicide mission. You also wanted to play with Larry Rose III, which is the equivalent of firing a gigantic laser cannon into an endless horde of advancing enemies. You'll probably get massacred at some point, but you're gonna take some mofos down with you and have fun doing it.

Perhaps you're also upset at the Sun Belt for kicking them out and want to punish them for jettisoning the Aggies and keeping lifeless ULM or "down on the mat with an 8-count" Texas State. Or maybe you're just in the mood for some old WAC nostalgia.

If you choose this job in real life...

You want to prove yourself as the next Bill Snyder, except at an even tougher job without any of the major conference advantages. You also have a borderline unhealthy interest in digging up diamond in the rough recruits out of Dallas and Houston that UNT/UTSA/Texas State overlooked.

Verdict

It's a damn shame that NMSU got kicked out of the 'Belt, because Doug Martin might just be building a semi-sustainable program there. Right now NMSU's best hope is to get a run of two straight bowl games and somehow get Karl Benson to come back crawling and begging for forgiveness.

If that doesn't happen, then NMSU is in a very, very bad spot. The Big Sky is reportedly interested in adding the Aggies, if you believe a newspaper out of Billings, Montana. However, NMSU will still be flying everywhere if that happens. It's far from clear that a move to FCS would work for them financially, which could lead to discussions about cutting football altogether.

Idaho may not have much of a future, but the Big Sky would at least give them the option of continuing their football program in a bus league. Therefore, NMSU gets the nod as the toughest job in the Sun Belt going forward, if only barely.