ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One needs to look only at the New Mexico State football team’s record over the years to realize that the program is facing an uphill battle on the field.
Part of answering that challenge comes from what is done away from the confines of Aggie Memorial Stadium, a fact that was addressed by head coach DeWayne Walker and athletic director McKinley Boston during their visit to Albuquerque on Saturday to meet with Aggie boosters and talk about the latest football recruits.
Walker, after winning a total of five games in his first two seasons, acknowledged to a group of Aggie supporters the urgency to be more competitive.
“The honeymoon is over,” he said.
Expected to aid in the development of the program is the recently established Football Success Fund, which addresses recruiting, assistant coach retention, training table and nutrition for players and academic support. Membership for the program is $5,000 per person, and NMSU has received 25 commitments to date.
The school hopes to follow in the footsteps of Boise State’s Football Coaches Club, which began seven years ago and has grown to 110 members. The group raised $550,000 in 2010-11 for the Broncos.
With changes in membership of the Western Athletic Conference looming, NMSU hopes to secure a foothold before newcomers Texas San-Antonio and Texas State get comfortable.
“The purpose behind the fund is to make football good again; basically reinvigorate it, because for so many years it hasn’t,” said Wayne Hickney, who as associate athletic director for development at NMSU is responsible for raising funds within the athletic department.
“We’ve just never had a process in place for fundraising around athletics as a whole. We’ve got to start doing the way other schools are doing it.”
NMSU also offers membership in a less pricey ($20 per month) Goal Line Club.
Putting a fan-friendly product on the field promotes financial goodwill within the program, a fact not lost on Walker.
“Winning always helps. Everybody wants to support a winner. For us to get to that level, we have to do a good job with this Football Success Fund and the Goal Line Club to really start helping us get the things that we need to get to the competitive level,” he said.
The task won’t get any easier with next season’s nonconference slate, which includes “payday” games at Georgia and Minnesota and a trip to BYU. The rest of the pre-WAC schedule features home games against Ohio and UTEP, along with a trip to New Mexico.
Another issue facing the athletic program comes from the New Mexico Legislature, which Boston said is trying to reduce NMSU’s athletic subsidy significantly.
“The Legislative Finance Committee recommended a 23 percent cut, while they recommended a 10 percent cut for UNM. We’re working with the Legislature trying to just deal with the issue of fairness,” he said.
Should those reductions become a reality, the involvement of NMSU graduates in supporting the program becomes that much more essential.
“New Mexico State University alums support the university to the tune of about 3 to 5 percent in terms of donations back to the university. Another way of saying that is 95 percent of NMSU alums don’t support the university at all. So the area we know we have to grow is fundraising. The potential is off the charts,” Boston said.
SPRING FOOTBALL: The Aggies are set to begin spring practice April 2. Drills will conclude with the spring game April 30.