Aggie Football Coach sets out to wake 'giant'
|"If Aggie fans come out and support this team - and this university - they will get something in return."|
|--Coach Tony Samuel|
|An artist's rendition of an expanded Aggie Memorial Stadium hangs in Tony Samuel's office. It shows additional seating, a new and larger press box and the glamor of what the stadium could look like in the future.|
|"What's wrong with that picture?" asked Samuel. "There's a game going on in that drawing. What's wrong with it?"|
|The answer: Only a handful of fans are in the stands.|
|"When I first came to NMSU I said we're sitting on a sleeping giant," Samuel said of NMSU's football program. "It's just a matter of commitment and we'll find out how big this giant will be. Our progress will be based on|
|Coach Tony Samuel (left)|
overall commitment from our team and from our community."
Samuel was named head coach of the NMSU Aggie football team last December. He came to NMSU from college football mecca University of Nebraska in Lincoln, where the pigskin is valued about as highly as green chile in the Mesilla Valley. The major difference between the college football programs is that Nebraska has enjoyed 36 straight winning seasons while NMSU has had only two winning seasons in the past 30 years. Samuel doesn't see that as a problem.
"The same thing that happens Saturday afternoons in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Manhattan, Kansas, can happen here in Las Cruces," he said. "We're at a very crucial stage right now. With just a little more emphasis placed on athletics, and on football in particular, we'll be able to get the excitement back in Aggie Football."
That "emphasis" includes continually improving the talent pool of his football players, creating an alumni hospitality suite where Aggie fans can gather before and after home games, and improving the mind set of both fans and players.
"Our coaching staff has brought some ideas and some strategies from Nebraska," Samuel said. "But one thing we'd like to introduce to NMSU is a tradition of winning on the gridiron. Our players and coaches already have the will to win."
Samuel said many people familiar with Aggie football expect failure and expect negative things to happen. "We cannot operate like that. Once we get past that hurdle we'll be all right."
To overcome negative expectations the coaching staff has been on the recruiting trail: trying to recruit new fans and asking Mother Nature to bring back the Aggies' fair weather fans.
"The players have to circle the wagons and work from within. They cannot dwell on the negative," Samuel said. "I have to be concerned with getting the community involved."
To announce his spring 1997 recruits Samuel held a signing party that drew hundreds of Aggie faithful. He's also toured several New Mexico towns and cities in the hope of developing relationships with current and future Aggie fans. And more than 2,500 fans watched the May 2 Crimson and White scrimmage at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
"That's what we need," Samuel said, "some excitement!"
"It's too early to say how good our team will be this year or how good our program will become," Samuel said. "But I'll tell you this: if Aggie fans come out and support this team - and this university - they will get something in return. The more support they give, the more loyalty they'll get from the players on the field when the game's on the line.
"There are only a few things that I can predict and one of them is that the players we put on the field will play hard and that our coaches will work hard," he said. "When you give your all and feel good about your performance, that's winning."
And winning teams draw fans who fill the stands.
"We need our fans to show up at all our games - home and away. We
need them to be our 12th man."
Dan Trujillo, '92
Fomer Diablos Owner Fires Up To Lead NMSU Athletics
|NMSU named Jim Paul, former owner and president of the El
Paso Diablos, as
its new director of athletics on July 18.|
"I want all of New Mexico State University's students, faculty, staff and alumni to know how excited I am about coming to NMSU," Paul said.
"It's a job I didn't need but a challenge I wanted. So I'll be doing the job for all the right reasons."
Paul purchased the Diablos, the Class AA farm team of the Milwaukee Brewers, in 1974 and was owner and president until selling the franchise last year. Paul remained as president and chief operating officer of the team until he began his new assignment at NMSU in mid-August.
"We're very excited to have somebody of Jim Paul's stature join our staff," said William B. Conroy, NMSU president. "He has proven himself to be extremely successful in running a sports franchise that is considered to be among the best in the country. We are hoping that he can have the same effect on our intercollegiate athletics department."
At a press conference announcing his appointment, Paul said of NMSU's student athletes, "I think we take gifted athletes and bring them here and exploit them to an extent, and so we have a moral obligation to give them every opportunity to graduate, and if they don't graduate, at least they're better educated than when they came. This is a commitment from Jim Paul: to do everything we can to encourage our student athletes to learn...and we'll celebrate our scholar athletes.
Paul built the Diablos into the most successful franchise in minor league baseball. After purchasing the club in 1974, he immediately doubled the franchise's attendance in the first year and went on to break six consecutive attendance records.
He has been honored as the National AA Executive of the Year by The Sporting News on three occasions and is the only person to win the Texas League's Executive of the Year Award four times. In 1986, Paul was honored with the President's Award, the highest award given to an executive in the minor league circle. Baseball America tabbed the Diablos as its "Organization of the Decade" for the 1980s.
Paul received his bachelor's degree in 1971 from the University of Texas-El Paso and has served as assistant sports information director at UTEP, Kent State University and the University of Southwestern Louisiana. Paul and his wife, Connie, are the parents of two sons, Robbie and Taylor. Robbie has been a member of the Aggie baseball team for the past two seasons.
|1997 Aggie Football schedule|
|August 30||@ Arizona State||8:00 p.m.|
|September 6||@ New Mexico||6:05 p.m|
|September 13||Cal State Northridge||6:30 p.m.|
|September 27||@ Texas El Paso||6:35 p.m.|
|October 4||Cal Poly San Lluis Obispo||6:30 p.m.|
|October 11||@ Boise St*||7:05 p.m.|
|October 18||@ Utah St *||6:05 p.m.|
|October 25||Arkansas St(Homecomming)||6:30 p.m.|
|November 1||Nevada*||1:30 p.m.|
|November 8||North Texas *||1:30 p.m.|
|November 15||Idaho*||1:30 p.m.|
|*Big West Conference game|
|Panorama table of contents|
|Cover||Letters to the editor||Alumni/Friends||Campus||Features|
|Center Spread||Foundation/Development||Profiles||Aggie Whirl||Looking Back/Pathfinder|
|Back Issues||Keep In touch|