LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State fired football coach Hal Mumme on Tuesday, ending a four-year run during which the program often ended up in the news for the wrong reasons.
Athletic director McKinley Boston said he has begun a national search for a successor. Head coaching experience won't be required, just an eagerness to work with a program that for decades has been one of the worst in major college football.
"I am looking for energy, a fire in the belly, someone with at least experience as a coordinator," Boston said. "It would help to have familiarity with this part of the country. We need an exceptional recruiter and someone who enjoys the external part of job."
The Aggies lost seven straight games to end the season 3-9 and 1-7 in the Western Athletic Conference. They lost 49-0 at home to Boise State and ended the year last weekend with a 47-2 defeat at Utah State.
During Mumme's tenure, the university also paid $165,000 to settle a 2006 lawsuit brought by three former Muslim players who claimed they were dismissed from the team because of their religious beliefs.
Mumme had a 11-38 record as NMSU's head coach, but five of those victories were against teams from the Football Championship Subdivision.
Mumme signed a five-year deal that expires in January 2010. He was offered a one-year extension last December but did not sign it.
Boston said Mumme will receive a $305,000 buyout.
He previously was the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana, Kentucky and Valdosta State. He was 20-26 at Kentucky from 1997 to 2000.
Mumme's arrival in Las Cruces four years ago coincided with New Mexico State's entry into the WAC. And while Mumme is known for his wide-open "Air Raid" offense, his teams were just 4-28 in conference games.
New Mexico State hasn't reached the post-season since the 1960 Sun Bowl, currently the nation's longest skid without a bowl game.
Boston said the Aggies made strides under Mumme and the program has improved with better facilities.
"This team could have been 8-4 or 7-5," Boston said. "We were very, very competitive. The cupboard isn't bare. But at some point it is performance. You have to be able to win. You have to be able to sell the business side of it."
Boston named Charley Johnson, a standout NMSU quarterback who played in the NFL, as acting coach. To maintain continuity, Boston said he wants New Mexico State to stay with the spread offense employed by Mumme.
Boston also asked defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn, hired before this season, to remain. Dunn, the former defensive coordinator at Mississippi State and Memphis, signed a two-year contract when he was hired. Dunn attended the news conference and said he is interested in being the head coach or, depending on the hire, staying as coordinator.
"The main thing is that I have been a part of this, working with the players we have recruited," Dunn said.
Boston cited concerns about the business side of the program. He said regents last summer approved a 10-year business model for the athletics department that hinges on football becoming a moneymaker.
"I would have anticipated more progress, especially this year, than we have done," Boston said.
He also expressed concern about attendance and corporate support. Boston said New Mexico State is expected to narrowly meet the NCAA's two-year attendance minimum, averaging 15,000 fans per game, to maintain membership in the Football Bowls Subdivision.
"We need football to be successful here," Boston said.