|Afternoon football at NMSU without many fans early or at all|
© 2015 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. As I have done for most of fifty years I have New Mexico State University Football Season Tickets. Over the years there has been a complete lack of Aggie success. NMSU has not gone to a post-season Bowl since Eisenhower was president.
This has not been due to individual players or coaches, nor has luck played a part. But there have been questionable leadership decisions that are keeping the Aggie football program from being competitive.
Today’s collegiate teams require a large fan base. NMSU has had no success filling the stadium. Each new coach strides into Las Cruces a conquering lion and slinks out of town a slaughtered lamb. It is the administration that chases the fans and dooms the coaches.
The faithful season ticket holders are a small loyal group. Otherwise the stadium seats are empty except if local high school teams are playing and then the stadium fills up.
The question each year: will this Aggie football team finally be successful? Then in October the faithful are forced to say, “Just wait until next year.”
That said, I have enjoyed moments in many of the seasons, and have gone decades repeating “wait until next year.” I have liked many Aggie players, coaches and some college administrators.
The exception was the late 1980s, when I looked like a dog chewing hot pitch as I left the stadium. During that stretch the Aggies had four wins and 40 losses.
I believe that the reason for the lack of success is that for four decades NMSU has been selling losses. Playing powerhouse teams for money when NMSU has no real chance of winning began as a temporary tactic to cover a budget shortfall but continues even now. Some teams try it a few years and give up. Not the Aggies.
On September 5th the Aggies take on the Florida Gators for money, rather than competition. Then October 10th they take on Ole Miss again for money not competition. NMSU doesn't have any chance to win.
NMSU's money-game record is horrible. And it isn't just the seventy or now eighty or a hundred sold losses that hurt. The Aggies play powerhouse teams that are much bigger. Aggie players are often hurt thereby causing the team to lose games later in the season that could have been won.
The rest of the 2015 NMSU Football schedule looks playable. Some of the games can be won if the team doesn't get devastated playing the much bigger teams for money.
I'll be there cheering but I am angry that the team gets beat up and has two losses outside of their own making. Football programs are judged by their win/loss records with no asterisk for money games. There is never a time when the NMSU football program should sell a loss.
Selling football losses to support high salaries castrates the program. All NMSU has gotten over the decades is the need to sell even more losses. I have complained in my columns about this for thirty years. I am told every time that I just don't understand. Yep, I don't, even though I have a Ph.D. in Educational Administration.
NMSU’s primary goal should be to fill the stadium for every home game. How do you do that? By playing teams NMSU can beat. And becoming Bowl Eligible. This isn't Rocket Science.
Every year I am painfully aware of the near-empty stadium toward the end of each season and sometimes from the get-go. Each successive athletics department has reasons why filling the stadium cannot be done. Year after year, decade after decade comes a long litany of people who do not fill the stadium for every game.
Collegiate Football is part of the institutional identity. Those who say NMSU can do without football are not viewing students, town residents and alumni as consumers. The university must have a viable football program. The Aggies must concentrate on playing teams they can beat and break the Bowl Game curse.
NMSU needs to develop an effective process of moving from mediocre to good to great. Teams like Boise State have done that. Start smart and small. Build the program not by selling losses. Every great team fills their stadium.