“You know it’s been about four years that I’ve been on the job, if it was a stock, it’s still on the rise. The teams are doing well, fiscally we are doing well, our student-athletes are doing well in the classroom.” -New Mexico State AD Mario Moccia
Mario Moccia returned to his alma mater in 2015, as the 23rd Director of Athletics at New Mexico State University. In that time, he has guided New Mexico State to its top four finishes in the Learfield Director’s Cup standings, including three years with 100-plus points (2014-15, 2015-16 and 2017-18). But he always sees room for improvement.
“You know, no matter what I would never give us an ‘A.’ There’s always work to be done, but we’d certainly be in the ‘B’ range,” Moccia explains. “This is the 14th year of a 3.0 GPA with all of our student-athletes. They did over 6,100 hours in the community. From a competitive standpoint, we’ve won titles in volleyball, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, and women’s tennis and women’s golf.”
He tells CollegeAD that the Aggies fundraising has also improved, increasing 298% in just four years.
“Our annual fund was doing 168,000 when I first walked in and now it’s 668,000, over 1,1,00 members for the first time ever. So, things are pretty good.”
Moccia is also accomplishing something other athletic directors dream of, a dwindling deficit.
“There was over a $9 million deficit that was accrued by the department. Eventually, the state stepped in and said something had to be done. So, the athletic department was put on a plan and we’ve been making payments. After this year that deficit will be $3 million,” he says.
On the football side of things, New Mexico transitioned out of the Sun Belt to an FBS independent. Prior to joining the Sun Belt in 2014, New Mexico State had a transition year as an independent after the death of the WAC. Before that, the Aggies were an independent program for a decade between 1962 and 1971 after the death of the Border Conference and before joining the Missouri Valley Conference.
“It was the right decision, being an independent hasn’t been easy, there’s been ebbs and flows. Last year, I thought we had a pretty good schedule, and we only won three games. So, it is what it is. This year we have an incredibly difficult schedule, Washington State, Ole Miss, and Alabama.”
He explains as far as positioning themselves to be in a conference there are a few possibilities out there, but the university hasn’t been able to dedicate funds to hire a search firm and consultants. He’s still looking at the options.
“You know I told both the President and Chancellor that is one of those times we need to invest in people in the industry with knowledge and gravitas who can kind of guide us and sit down with us. We need to put everything we can on the table from an asset standpoint and make the case for us when the time is right.”
He says that being an independent has forced them to be a little creative in their scheduling, but the Sun Belt schools did not have much recognition for their fan base. In upcoming schedules, they will be playing more Mountain West schools that their fans know well.
“Mountain West is a conference that a lot of our people pine for, so I think at the end of the day, it’s been difficult but has also opened up unique opportunities.”