Tuesday, September 27, 2011

With Locksley gone, UNM needs to rebuild fans' trust

  To much of the surprise of nobody, the University of New Mexico cut loose football coach Mike Locksley on Sunday after two-plus seasons of misery for Lobos fans. Locksley went 2-26 during his tenure, including 0-4 this season after a loss to FCS opponent Sam Houston State on Saturday.
  While his on-the-field performance was poor at best, off the field was even worse. There was the suspension after punching a fellow coach, the verbal run-in with a student reporter, the sexual harassment suit and most recently Saturday when a man (supposedly a recruit) was arrested prior to the Lobos' game for suspicion of driving while intoxicated in a vehicle registered to Locksley's wife.
  While it will cost UNM $150,000 over each of the next two years, I bet it is worth it to Lobos fans to see him go.
  So, where does UNM go from here? 
  The most important objective UNM administration must accomplish is bringing fans and their support back to the program. The last two-plus years alienated many UNM football supporters as not only did Locksley lose, he also failed to recruit Division-I caliber, in-state talent (see Colorado 6-foot-5 wide receiver Tyler McCulloch from Eldorado in Albuquerque).
  I'm not incredibly familiar with University of New Mexico football or what the fans want, but all I know is the Lobos need to bring someone in to breath life back into the program. Leaving the Albuquerque-metro area Saturday after Hobbs' game against Cleveland the night before, you couldn't even tell there was a home game, nevertheless the homecoming game.
  One hire can make a difference, and it doesn't have to be a big name. I know this first hand as my alma mater Oregon brought on Chip Kelly from New Hampshire (yes, New Hampshire) in 2007 as the offensive coordinator then hired him as head coach in 2009. The Ducks haven't looked back with a Rose Bowl and national championship appearance in Kelly's first two years at the helm.
  The Lobos don't have to make a splash hire with a well-known name.
  UNM - who is playing in a conference that could be a BCS automatic qualifier shortly - needs to make the right hire.