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Aggies sticking with Martin for 2020

There won’t be a change at the top. That’s about the only sure thing for New Mexico State University’s football program looking ahead to 2020.

Aggies coach Doug Martin held a final media conference Tuesday to discuss his team’s 2-10 finish in 2019 and priorities for the future. The seventh-year coach acknowledged he has holes to fill through recruiting and emphasized that returning starters should not feel comfortable after a disappointing campaign.

“Every job is up for competition,” Martin said. “Every job. There are no guaranteed starting positions heading into the offseason.”

What could be sweeping on-the-field changes will not extend to the sideline, however. NMSU athletic director Mario Moccia said Tuesday that Martin, who has two years remaining on his contract at a $430,000 base salary, will coach the Aggies in 2020.

“I have confidence in Doug,” Moccia said, “and I have not lost any confidence in Doug. He inherited a tougher situation than we’re in right now and took us to a seven-win season and a bowl game (in 2017). I have no reason to believe he can’t do that again.”

Finances undoubtedly factor into Moccia’s thinking as he is under a state mandate to balance NMSU’s athletic department budget. If he opted now to make a coaching change, Moccia would trigger a buyout of more than $1.2 million owed to Martin and his assistants.

Both Moccia and Martin also believe next season’s schedule offers a bounce-back opportunity. The Aggies played three “guarantee” games against Power Five teams (Washington State, Alabama and Ole Miss) in 2019, including the first two games of the season. They play two such foes (UCLA and Florida) in 2020, but the rest of NMSU’s schedule is considerably more favorable.

“Playing three Power Five schools is not conducive to health or building confidence,” Moccia said. “I wish we didn’t have to play two money games next year, but it’s better than playing three.”

Injuries, including several suffered against power opponents, plagued NMSU in 2019 but left something of a bright side. Key seniors Roy Lopez (DL), Sage Doxtater (OT) and Anthony Muse (WR), for instance, played four games or fewer and thus can use this past season as a redshirt and return in 2020.

Martin listed wide receiver and defensive back as recruiting priorities and said he plans to bring a combination of high school and junior college players, along with some FBS transfers. The latter additions will include Los Lunas native and Michigan transfer O’maury Samuels at running back. Samuels sat out this season under NCAA transfer rules but will be in the competition to replace seniors Jason Huntley and Christian Gibson.

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