During Bob Davie’s five years as head coach at Notre Dame, one of college football’s most hallowed programs, every loss was a train wreck.
When he took the job as head coach at New Mexico, the whole program was a train wreck.
Recently, Davie said Tuesday, a friend with an extensive college and pro football background stopped by his office.
“He said, ‘Coach, you’ve had the two toughest jobs in college football – Notre Dame and New Mexico.’ ”
No conversation about college football’s toughest jobs would be complete without a reference to New Mexico State, which lost to the Lobos 66-17 on Saturday.
Still, UNM had lost to the Aggies three straight years when Davie took over a program that had gone 3-33 those three seasons.
And he took over a program decimated by NCAA scholarship limitations, combined with a player attrition rate that Davie describes as virtually unprecedented.
Of 41 original signees in 2010 and 2011 – there would have been 50, if not for NCAA violations committed by assistants to Rocky Long during his tenure as head coach – 26 left with eligibility remaining or never showed up in the first place; four were transfers who exhausted their eligibility; only 11 are on the team this season.
“I don’t know that, in the history of college football, that has ever happened (before),” Davie said. “I kind of doubt it.”
Davie, at times sounding like a coach who’d just lost 66-17 instead of winning 66-17, spent almost half of his Tuesday news conference discussing the unique challenges the UNM job presents, and urging patience and support while he and his staff rebuild the program.
That doesn’t mean, he said, that he’s disappointed with attendance at UNM’s first three home games – an average of about 26,500 – or with fan support in general.
He just wants more, he said, and felt that encouraging more support made more sense after a victory than after a defeat.
“I just think it’s good in a week like this when we come off a win like 66-17 to talk about this,” he said. “Our problems aren’t solved because we just won 66-17. Our problems are year, year year, build, build build.”
His remarks Tuesday, Davie said, are simply a continuation of those made when he was introduced as UNM’s head coach in November 2011.
“When I took this job, I said, ‘Don’t wait for us to win to start to embrace this program. We need you now. We need your help now as we build this, because (the situation) is so unique.’
“I know everybody gets tired of hearing that, but that’s the reality of it.”
But does Davie, like his friend, really believe Notre Dame and New Mexico are the two toughest jobs in college football? He was fired after five years as head coach of the Irish, despite a 35-25 record. No Lobos coach since Bill Weeks (1960-64, 34-17-1) has had a better record than that over a five-year stretch.
“The Notre Dame part, (his friend) might have been right,” Davie said, “but I’m holding judgment on this New Mexico part.
“Give me a couple of more years, and then I’ll answer that for sure.”
The Lobos are 2-3 on the season, 0-1 in Mountain West Conference play, entering their MWC game Saturday at Wyoming (3-2, 1-0).
RIO GRANDE RIVALRY: The Lobos’ victory over New Mexico State was worth three points in the annual all-sports contest between the intrastate rivals. The score for the current school year now stands at 9-0 in UNM’s favor.
INITIAL SUCCESS: Davie is the first UNM football head coach since Joe Lee Dunn to win his first two games against New Mexico State. Dunn turned the trick in 1983-84.
After Dunn, four coaches – Mike Sheppard, Dennis Franchione, Long and Mike Locksley – all lost to the Aggies on their first try.
MW NETWORK BLACKOUT: The Mountain West Network, which is scheduled to carry the UNM-Wyoming game online, will be blacked out in areas where the telecast is available on Root Sports.
NO PICKS: According to UNM’s sports information department, the UNM is the only NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team that has not thrown an interception this season. It helps, of course, that the Lobos have thrown only 62 passes in five games – 11 fewer than Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr threw against Rutgers in the Bulldogs’ season opener.