LAS CRUCES – New Mexico State University athletic director McKinley Boston said he was surprised at the conclusion of a performance review with NMSU President Garrey Carruthers on Wednesday.
Neither Carruthers or Boston would comment on the results of that review, but the outcome is clear. Boston’s 10-year tenure at NMSU will end Dec. 31, according to a university announcement.
“I’m very at ease with his decision,” Boston said. “We have an agreement, and I will continue to support him through the end of December and make my decisions on my future after that. I was thinking about retirement in another two years and, obviously, this was a little bit premature.”
Carruthers has made it clear he expects more from the top athletic post in the area of fundraising.
“Revenue generation, whether marketing or athletic events or fundraising, has to be a very high priority in the coming athletic director,” Carruthers said. “The change of direction is a result of the financial condition of the athletic program and the need to improve it.”
In 2005, NMSU joined the Western Athletic Conference. It was an expensive move, coming at a time when the WAC was still a viable conference in both football and men’s basketball. Carruthers said Wednesday the athletic department is currently working to erase a $5 million debt.
Carruthers said a national search is underway, but the university won’t rush to name Boston’s replacement, potentially naming an interim, if needed, on Jan. 1. Until the end of 2014, Boston retains the same responsibilities Carruthers laid out for him a year ago with attention to conference realignment, athletic finances and day-to-day operations.
A NMSU spokesman said there will be no change to Boston’s salary, which was $241,519 in 2014. The rate was just extended through the end of the year.
Bob Gallagher, a NMSU booster and former Board of Regents chairman who served on the interview committee when Boston was hired in 2004, questioned the metrics Carruthers had established as a part of Boston’s contract.
“There are a significant amount of those that were not obtainable,” he said. “I’m not sure why those were set at that level, unless you have another goal in mind. I respect the president, and (in) the position that he is in, he has to surround himself with people who he would feel comfortable with. Ten years is a long time, and I think you could say it was a good run, and I think that long is the exception and not the rule. By far, I would say he is the best athletic director in the history of New Mexico State University.”
On the metrics for attendance at NMSU football games, Carruthers told the Sun-News in June that the NMSU Foundation purchased season tickets to meet the requirement of 15,000 fans per game. Average attendance requirements in men’s basketball (7,000), volleyball (1,300) and women’s basketball (1,000) also were not met. There were also metrics for ticket revenue in football ($844,000), men’s basketball ($852,000), volleyball ($26,000), soccer ($8,000), baseball ($10,000) and softball ($10,000).
But Carruthers would not speak specifically on Boston’s review regarding those metrics or whether Wednesday’s announcement was related.
“If you look at what we have done here at New Mexico State, I’m an outside guy,” said Carruthers, who was hired in May 2013. “I’m a fundraiser, and I connect with the Legislature and connect with the community. The inside guy is the provost, who takes care of the day-to-day operations. It’s the same kind of thing you see in athletics, in my view. Athletic directors have to be outside people making contact with the community and helping to promote the sports so people will buy tickets and dealing with the Legislature, and in particular, dealing with donors.”
Boston has been in the business of athletics for over 30 years. While at NMSU, he made a handful of quality coaching hires and was at the helm when the NMSU football program went from an independent school for the past season to its current home in the Sun Belt Conference after the WAC dissolved as a football conference.
“From an athletics standpoint, he (Boston) did a good job in terms of the athletics administration side,” said Sam Wasson, a 2001 NMSU alumnus and editor of BleedCrimson.net, an independent media outlet. “In today’s college athletics environment, fundraising is more than 50 percent of an athletic director’s job and NMSU hasn’t been able to keep up in the fundraising game.”
TV and the five super-conferences have changed the landscape of college athletics in recent years, placing a bigger emphasis on raising money for the so-called midmajor schools such as New Mexico State.
“One of the questions presidents will have to ask themselves is can they continue to subsidize midmajor programs the way they are,” Boston said.
The NMSU release mentioned an improvement in community service hours from NMSU athletes, as well as an improvement in academic progress rate for student-athletes during Boston’s tenure. There has also been success on the field of play, with conference championships in men’s basketball, volleyball and softball in recent years.
When asked what he considered his biggest accomplishments at NMSU, Boston said: “I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Student-athletes go to class. They graduate.
“The elephant in the room from a winning standpoint is football. We haven’t been able to flip that. … Those things were important, and we weren’t able to get some of those things done. Facility improvements were significant, and the ability to land successfully in another conference was something I was pleased with. The scenario wasn’t the best, but there was a lot of work involved to get that to happen.”
Boston also said the average tenure of an athletics director is between four to five years.
“In a sense, I have been living on borrowed time,” he said.