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Regents support Aggies football

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Resolution commits to Division I level

LAS CRUCES – Just in case there was any doubt about New Mexico State’s commitment to football at the Division I – or Football Bowl Subdivision – level, the board of regents Friday issued a resolution making their support clear.

The resolution, read aloud at the regents’ meeting Friday afternoon, came on the heels of a letter written by regents Chairman Mike Cheney, and issued to university employees, that also expressed support for the football program.

The Aggie football team, which has not been to a bowl game since 1960, has been the target of faculty criticism because the Athletic Department budget has been subsidized for years with funds initially earmarked for academics. This year, that subsidy amounts to about $4.2 million in instructional funds, athletic director McKinley Boston said.

Boston noted that only about 10 percent of all Division I football programs around the nation operate without any university subsidy.

In the resolution, the regents said they had reviewed the Athletic Department’s financial status and “feel justified in continuing this level of financial commitment.”

Aggie football has been through a turbulent period with the disintegration of the Western Athletic Conference as a football league after the 2012 season. The Aggies will play as a football independent in 2013 before joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014 for football only, while all other sports will continue to compete in the WAC.

“The fact that universities are often judged by those with whom they compete, as well as how well they compete, is demonstrable evidence of the importance of our NCAA Division I status and the conference to which we belong,” Cheney’s letter to NMSU employees read. “Our football team has not achieved the success we would have liked to have seen over the years, but we have had pockets of success that inspire.”

Among the successes achieved by the team that went 1-11 in 2012, Cheney cited an Aggie victory over the University of Minnesota in 2011 and the drafting of three players by NFL teams over the past three years.

“My challenge to all of us is to get behind and support our teams that represent us with such pride,” Cheney wrote. “Anyone can criticize. It takes fortitude to be a supporter on our way to achieving the success we desire.”

Cheney said the resolution was unrelated to comments incoming President Garrey Carruthers made last month during an open forum as he was being interviewed for the NMSU presidency.

Carruthers was quoted by the Las Cruces Sun-News as saying he had considered dropping football altogether and was willing to consider moving the program to a lower tier, to the Football Championship Subdivision.

The regents’ resolution was read after a presentation by Boston, who discussed proposed changes to athletics administration aimed at making the department more efficient, accountable and better able to raise funds in a coordinated fashion.

Those changes were endorsed by a consulting firm, Collegiate Sports Associates, which was hired by former President Barbara Couture in August to review the athletics program to make it more effective and competitive.

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