LAS CRUCES — New Mexico State University has brought home an Aggie with fundraising savvy to head the university’s athletics department.
NMSU President Garrey Carruthers on Monday named Mario Moccia as athletic director from a pool of about 40 candidates to replace McKinley Boston after a monthslong search.
Moccia begins on Jan. 5 with a five-year contract and annual salary of $240,000, plus incentive compensation based on achieving performance goals in academics, athletics and revenue.
“I know there is a lot of work to be done,” he said, adding that, in football, “We will make sure they have the resources to compete at the highest level. That has got to be and will be a focus of our administration.”
Moccia successfully ran an $80 million facilities campaign at Southern Illinois University, where he served as athletic director since 2006. In a news conference, Moccia said fundraising and football at NMSU would be top priorities.
Moccia graduated in 1989 from NMSU, where he was a baseball MVP in 1988 and 1989. He played in the Detroit Tigers organization for two years before shifting into sports administration. In 1998, he was named to the New Mexico State University Athletics Hall of Fame.
“It’s always important to hire Aggies, and I do that with reckless abandon,” Carruthers said during the news conference. But he said that, more importantly, Moccia “seemed to stand out in terms of his ability to go out into the community and raise funds and to advance the brand of athletics.”
Carruthers announced in August that Boston’s contract expiring on Dec. 31 would not be renewed, and that the athletic department was trying to erase a $5 million debt.
In a statement released by the university, Carruthers praised the efforts of Boston during his 10-year tenure.
“His attention to academics, especially his work to increase our student-athlete graduation rates and improve our APR is much appreciated,” Carruthers said. “I wish the very best for him and his family.”
Moccia’s fundraising campaign at Southern Illinois paid for a new football stadium, a renovated arena and a 50,000-square foot team facility, according to the university’s website.
He said he planned to run the NMSU athletics department on three “core principles”: academic integrity, social responsibility and competitive intensity.
NMSU has been lacking in the latter, especially in its troubled football program. NMSU is 2-9. Average attendance per home game was a dismal 12,269 this season — less than half the capacity of Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Regarding how he plans to boost support for the long-losing team, he declined to share specifics but said, “We will ask personally all the Aggie alums, fans, donors and letter winners to help us emotionally, financially and by attending the ball games.”
Moccia has done time as a Lobo, too. He previously served as director of sales at the University of New Mexico.