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North Dakota State coach to take over UNM baseball

North Dakota State Bison head coach Tod Brown (21) during a game against the Bowling Green Falcons at Chain of Lakes Stadium on March 9, 2013 in Winter Haven, Florida. NDSU defeated Bowling Green 8-5. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images)

Tod Brown said coming home was a major part of his decision to apply for the job as University of New Mexico baseball coach.

It’s not exactly home from a personal perspective. Brown hails from Tucson and concedes that until recently, he hadn’t visited Albuquerque for many years.

But the 49-year-old Brown, who was introduced Thursday as the Lobos’ next coach, is eager to coach home games, something he rarely did in his last stop at North Dakota State University.

“I am looking forward to playing a lot of home games,” Brown said during an introductory Zoom media conference. “You look at our 2021 season at North Dakota State and we played 18 weeks, 12 of them were not in Fargo. That comes with the territory, but it’s not easy.”

Spring weather conditions preclude North Dakota State from scheduling home baseball games prior to April.

Brown’s Bison had an outstanding year in 2021 — finishing 42-19 despite playing 43 games away from home — winning a Summit League title and advancing to NCAA Regional play, where NDSU defeated Mountain West champ Nevada before bowing out.

So, after 14 seasons in Fargo, Brown comes to UNM and replaces Ray Birmingham, who spent the final 14 years of his 43-year coaching career with the Lobos. Brown’s full contract was not yet available Thursday, but UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said it is a five-year deal with a $165,000 annual base salary.

The hiring ends a rather lengthy search that began when Birmingham announced his retirement plans in late April. Nuñez said the process took longer than he would have liked because some candidates, including Brown, were still immersed in their 2021 seasons until recently.

Nuñez said he ultimately interviewed 12 candidates, five of them in person. The list included current head coaches, assistants and others not currently employed by college baseball programs, Nuñez said. The latter group included former Lobo standout Jordan Pacheco, who is playing for the minor league Lexington Legends this season.

“It was an extensive process, and we hoped it would go faster,” Nuñez said. “But we wanted to make sure we hired someone who wanted this job, checked all the boxes and would be in it for the long haul. At the end of the day, Tod Brown is that guy.”

Brown thanked Nuñez for allowing him to complete his season at NDSU before turning full attention to the interview process. He also complimented Birmingham’s work in building UNM’s program and baseball facilities. Brown said he looks forward to working with Birmingham, who plans to remain with UNM’s athletic department in a part-time role.

Brown’s personal and baseball roots are in Tucson, where he played high school and later college ball as a left-handed pitcher at the University of Arizona. He later coached at his alma mater, Sabino High School, and as a volunteer assistant at Arizona before moving to the Midwest. Brown served as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Bowling Green for eight years and took over at North Dakota State in 2008.

The Bison went 75-120 in Brown’s first four seasons but won a school-record 40 games in 2012 and earned the school’s first Summit League title in 2014. His overall record at NDSU was 341-350.

Brown said he had not seriously considered leaving until the UNM job came open.

“I always thought there were only three ways I’d leave North Dakota State,” he said. “Retire, fire or expire. Two of those are bad and one’s really bad. Then a fourth way came along, hire, and it was really a no-brainer for me.”

Brown and Nuñez held a Zoom meeting with UNM’s returning players Thursday morning, and both said it went well. Brown said he plans to speak with UNM’s players and recruits individually as soon as possible.

Brown and his wife, Janet, have a 21-year-old son (Brooks) and an 18-year-old daugher (Blake).

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