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Nuñez gets on task of hiring next UNM football coach

Eddie Nuñez spoke Tuesday about hiring the next Lobos football coach. The University of New Mexico athletic director said he wants a high energy, high character coach who can connect with the community. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Eddie Nuñez, University of New Mexico’s athletic director, stressed that the process of hiring the Lobos’ next football coach will be expedient, thorough and aggressive, as he is using a wide range of resources to make the most important hire in his two years at UNM.

He said, during a press conference on Tuesday, he has not had any contact with any prospect in whom he has interest. Danny Gonzales, Arizona State’s defensive coordinator and a former UNM player and assistant, will be among those contacted, the Journal has learned.

Gonzales expressed to friends his interest in the opening, the Journal reported last week.

But the UNM athletic director’s work to make the hire will certainly go beyond Gonzales. Nuñez said there is “an unbelievable amount of interest” in taking over as head coach of a football program that is in need of a rebuild, having gone 8-28 the past three seasons. The latest season, 2-10, led to Bob Davie coaching his final game on Saturday, ending an era of eight seasons.

Nuñez quickly went to work on hiring the next coach, one who has “high character, with energy, and with a committment to ensuring a culture of integrity, excellence and winning,” he said. He also wants a coach who can connect with the community.

He said will be using a search firm – DHR International – to gain background and more knowledge of possible candidates. He did not reveal how much the search firm is being paid.

“I’m not worried or concerned about winning the press conference or what geographical region somebody is tied to,” Nuñez said. “My focus is to find the best football coach for the University of New Mexico.”

He recently spoke with former Lobo coaches Rocky Long and Dennis Franchione, and former UNM star and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, to gain more knowledge of the type of coach the Lobos should hire.

Nuñez said he appreciated their candor ranging on various topics, including recruiting and fan engagement.

Nuñez also said he will also use his some of his past experiences, which includes 14 years at LSU, during the search process.

“I am going to rely on my background, my connections and my networking,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have been associated with some wonderful football coaches and administrators as well. It’s allowed me the flexibility to reach out to them and gain insight, understand who are some viable candidates. There are a lot of people out there that are great on paper. But, can they understand what is expected here?”

There is an expected challenge for compensation for UNM’s next football coach because of the athletic department’s budget concerns and Davie’s buyout that is likely to be at around $845,000 paid at just more than $35,000 monthly for the next two years, according to Davie’s contract.

Nuñez would not answer questions about Davie’s buyout amount, saying that will be revealed at the Board of Regents meeting on Dec. 10.

“I’m not going to say that we’re going to be in the same range (as Davie), or higher or lower,” he said. “Right now I want to see who the candidate is. … If that person is someone, in my eyes, that we have (to pay) a little bit more, that’s going to be a conversation we need to have. Because I am not going to put our athletic department in a situation where financially it’s going to be daunting for the future of this program. … I’m not going to put ourselves in Year 3 with a task that we cannot achieve. Everything will be taken into consideration, but I’m not going to say it’s going to be between this range and that range. I want to be able to have conversations with those candidates and be able to make that decision.”

In addition to Davie’s buyout, six assistants (Jordan Peterson, Joe Dailey, Saga Tuitele, Scott Baumgartner, Dan Carrell, Dillon Sanders) and strength coach Scott Holsopple have signed contracts through 2020.

Nuñez has appointed Perry Eliano, the special teams and cornerbacks coach, as the Lobos’ acting head coach. Eliano’s contract runs through the end of the month.

Apollo Wright, Clay Davie, Stan Eggen also have contracts that end this month, along with Greg Svarczkopf, the Lobos’ recruiting coordinator.

Nuñez said he does not have a target date, but he gave the impression the Lobos want to move quickly with the hire.

“I don’t want to be here in mid-January because I think we would have major issues,” he said. “We’re going to be aggressive, but we are going to be thorough. I’m not going to make a decision to beat a deadline.”

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