How will president Barbara Couture’s departure impact New Mexico State athletics?
We do know this: the president of the school plays a huge role upon its athletics department. To find out, look no further than Couture herself. She’s been subject to the brunt of criticism in conference realignment, and rightfully so. She’s the leader of the school, the face of the institution and must network as such. Simply read this quote from Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson, who held the same position with the Western Athletic Conference for nearly two decades before leaving in February. Just for clarification, Couture is also chair of the WAC:
“It was interesting timing,” Benson recalled in terms of when NMSU became a WAC member in 2005. “New Mexico State had a new athletics director in McKinley Boston and a new president in Mike Martin. Those two took advantage of their membership in the WAC to build New Mexico State's program ... Corporate support, donor support ... New Mexico State left the Sun Belt for the WAC and obviously (at the time) the WAC was a more valuable entity than the Sun Belt ... Now I'm in the Sun Belt and New Mexico State is hanging onto what's left of the WAC.”
Translation: With Martin and Boston as a team, NMSU was an appealing entity for an athletics conference looking to add pieces. Bear in mind, Martin is gone and Couture took his place. And NMSU is, as a painful reminder, without a stable home in the conference race. In reality, the Aggies were more attractive then than they are now, and that’s for a number of reasons, not just the presidential seat.
But does Couture’s departure have something to do with the Aggies clouded athletics future? It would be naive to say it doesn’t. Of course an athletics department is a microcosm of a university, not the other way around. With that being said, it remains the front-porch of the school in many ways, and when there’s holes in the porch, the roof is caving in and the floor boards are rotting, it doesn’t reflect well on the institution.
Does Couture leaving guarantee athletics safety? Far from it. Lets not forget there’s a board of regents that ultimately makes the call on what direction they want the school to go in, and who they bring in to fulfill that vision.
A new president will take over and immediately look at the situation: Does New Mexico State have the resources available to play Division I football? Would the school be better off as an FCS-playing member? And who do they want as athletics director to lead that charge? The answers to such questions will ultimately determine what direction the Aggie athletics department goes, not just a changing of the guard all together.
It’s a scary time. A down time. Another thing change can provide: hope, something that hasn’t been available in some time. Even if such an emotion proves fleeting, and is unpredictable.
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