LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Former Gophers athletics director McKinley Boston took over as New Mexico State’s AD in late 2004 and, since that time, the Aggies have fared well in most sports across the board except football.
The men’s basketball team has reached the NCAA tournament four times during Boston’s tenure, including the past two seasons.
But the football team can’t get over the hump. The Aggies have a .210 winning percentage during Boston’s tenure, and the drought stretches back decades. New Mexico State has gone the longest stretch without a bowl berth in the nation, dating to its Sun Bowl trip in 1960.
The Aggies were part of the Western Athletic Conference from 2005 to 2012, but with that league dissolved, they are independent this season.
“Anytime you’re at a mid-major, in a lot of cases it’s about resources,” Boston said. “When we joined the WAC, our budget was in the lower third, and that was that period where Boise State was upsetting Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, and Hawaii had that great year [going to the Sugar Bowl in 2007].
“So the people that we were competing against invested a lot of money in their programs, and we just didn’t have the money.”
New Mexico State defeated the Gophers in 2011 in Minneapolis, despite entering that game as 20-point underdogs. But after that season, then-offensive coordinator Doug Martin left to take the same job at Boston College.
“He was our heart and soul,” Boston said. “We didn’t know it at the time, and you never know what the real impact of an assistant coach is on a program. But I realized the presence he had in the locker room, the way the kids respected him and the confidence he instilled.”
When former Gophers cornerback Dewayne Walker left to become the Jacksonville Jaguars defensive backs coach, after going 10-40 in four seasons at New Mexico State, Boston quickly worked to re-hire Martin, this time as head coach.
The Aggies have a much tougher schedule this season after opening at Texas, and with games against Boston College and UCLA still to come.
“Every year, it’s kind of like the Chicago Cubs — this is going to be the year,” Boston said. “And we are much improved, but we’ll see what it translates into.”
• As expected, Gophers running backs Donnell Kirkwood (sprained ankle) and Berkley Edwards (sprained ankle) did not make the trip to New Mexico State.
• Senior offensive tackle Ed Olson and redshirt freshman linebacker Nick Rallis also weren’t on the trip because of unspecified injuries.
• Junior tight end Alex Bisch has been out with a foot injury.
The Gophers return home next Saturday for an 11 a.m. kickoff against Western Illinois, a team from the FCS (Football Championship Series) sub-division.