UNM should give Moccia a good look for vacant AD spot
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Columnist makes a cogent and compelling case for Mario Moccia as the next UNM AD.
By Jason Groves, Las Cruces Sun-News, 6-3-17
If you aren’t worried that big brother up north would steal another staffer from New Mexico State athletics, you should be.
Athletics Director Mario Moccia is far more qualified for the vacant AD job at New Mexico than former Aggies basketball coach Paul Weir was for the basketball job when UNM poached him in April.
Whether Moccia would be interested in replacing Paul Krebs is an unknown, but he didn’t slam the door on the possibility, opting for a politically correct response when asked to gauge his interest following Krebs’ announced retirement amid scandal on Friday.
"It would be premature to answer any questions like that,” Moccia said. "We have an enormous amount of work to do here and I’m focused every day on improving our program.”
Although UNM athletics seems to be on a downward trajectory, Moccia would likely listen.
Krebs earned $419,000 last year while Moccia earns $240,000 per year.
There are the usual bells and whistles that come with the UNM job that would be significant upgrades, most notably the ability to perform his job without the constant threat of conference realignment hanging over his head. There are additional revenue streams available at UNM just by being a member of the Mountain West Conference.
And of course, Moccia would leave the challenge of finishing an independent football schedule to his successor while he would have the time and support staff at New Mexico to do what he was brought here to do — raise money.
While Moccia’s interest level is an unknown at this point in time, he fits the UNM job to a T.
Moccia got his start in the industry as a Lobo, where he earned a sports administration master’s degree in 1993 and ultimately worked under his mentor, Mike Alden, whose name carries weight in the profession. Moccia was a student at UNM alongside current Texas State AD Larry Teis and Georgetown AD Lee Reed.
Moccia moved to Albuquerque after his dream of playing pro baseball came to an end. He was granted a marketing department internship in 1992 while Rudy Davalos was the UNM AD and Alden was the associate athletics director.
A fulltime position as assistant director of marketing opened up when current Learfield Sports Vice President David Hubbard left UNM. Moccia was hired, and was in charge of corporate sponsorships with some Lobo Club responsibilities until he left in 1997 to be Alden’s associate AD at Texas State.
Moccia fits UNM’s profile as an attractive potential candidate. They plucked Krebs as a sitting athletic director at Bowling Green in 2006. The fact that Moccia has already been in the fiscally challenged state for two years as an AD would give him an advantage over any Power 5 associate AD. Not to mention Moccia is mandated to pay down the NMSU athletic department’s $4.3 million debt to the university, while UNM athletics has taken the opposite approach to fiscal responsibility under Krebs.
UNM recently extended the contract of now interim president Chaouki Abdallah until May of 2018, or until the UNM Board of Regents makes a permanent hire. The leadership factor between UNM and New Mexico State could very well be a wash, as current NMSU Chancellor Garrey Carruthers has one year left on his contract. Carruthers is a known commodity, but like a potential new boss at UNM, Moccia could have a different boss in Las Cruces a year from now.
The fact that Moccia graduated from NMSU in 1989 surely carries weight. The addition of a Learfield multimedia rights deal and an apparel deal with Under Armour stand out as significant accomplishments since he replaced McKinley Boston. He’s also done the heavy lifting on assembling an independent football schedule for 2018 and 2019 that actually gives NMSU the ability to win some games. He has done remarkably well despite the numerous challenges that any administrator faces at New Mexico State.
But don’t be surprised when and if Moccia’s name surfaces as a potential replacement up north.
There is precedent now.
This article has been reprinted on Clips with the author's permission.