Mumme's goal is WAC title

Updated: December 30, 2004, 6:29 PM ET
Associated Press

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- New Mexico State University on Thursday named Southeastern Louisiana's Hal Mumme as its new football coach.

"Hal has demonstrated his ability to win, create an exciting brand of football and is committed to becoming part of the community,'' NMSU athletic director McKinley Boston, who himself was hired earlier this month, said in announcing Mumme's appointment at an afternoon news conference.

Mumme was one of three finalists from among 48 candidates.

"Sometimes they just got it and I really feel like he's got it,'' Boston said.

NMSU fired Tony Samuel as coach on Nov. 24. Samuel had led the Aggies to two winning seasons in eight years, compiling a 34-57 overall record, including a 5-6 mark last season.

NMSU, which moves to the Western Athletic Conference next year, has had only four winning seasons in the past 35 years.

The school this past season was "very competitive in a lot of games,'' said Mumme.

He said his own style was "a high-risk offense.''

"We throw the ball around a whole bunch,'' he said.

Mumme said his top goal was to win the WAC and his second was to get into a bowl game.

"You play in a conference to win it,'' he said.

Mumme said he'd met a few Aggie players informally but had not yet been introduced to the team.

"I've read the media guide but I haven't had a chance to look at any tape,'' he said.

He said he would start making recruiting telephone calls next week. "Then we're going to have to work hard, there's only two weeks left,'' he said.

His five-year contract with NMSU goes into effect Saturday. He will get a base salary of $197,000, plus incentives still under negotiation.

Boston said NMSU's goal was to "impact the young men in the program and install discipline and focus. Of course, we want to win WAC championships, we want to be consistently competitive in our conference.''

Mumme, 52, has compiled a 97-64-1 record in 14 seasons as a head coach and has taken teams to the postseason seven times.

He spent the last two seasons at Southeastern Louisiana, where he restarted a program dormant since the mid-1980s. He compiled a 12-11 overall record there, including a 7-4 mark last season.

Mumme was head football coach at the University of Kentucky for four years, going 20-26 and leading the Wildcats to two bowl games. He resigned in February 2001 amid an NCAA investigation that uncovered recruiting violations and led to Kentucky being placed on probation for three years.

"I was in charge of that and some things went wrong, and I took responsibility for it,'' he said Thursday. "The mistakes I made at Kentucky were basically managerial mistakes. I also learned a lot at Southeastern and reinventing my style.''

Boston said NMSU was able to get Mumme because of the problems at Kentucky.

"I wanted a seasoned head coach, but I knew the chances of getting that were not very good,'' he said.

He said Kentucky's former president told him he would hire Mumme again without hesitation.

"Part of it was that he (Mumme) wasn't ready. Sometimes you have to grow into the job, and as he was doing that, he made some mistakes,'' Boston said.

Mumme, who was not sanctioned by the NCAA, spent 18 months away from football before Southeastern Louisiana gave him a contract that was to run through the 2007 season.

He was head coach at Valdosta State from 1992 to 1996 and Iowa Wesleyan from 1989 to 1991. He was an assistant at UTEP from 1982 to 1985.

Mumme, who received a bachelor's degree from Tarleton State University in 1975, played football for New Mexico Military Institute in 1970-71 and for Tarleton State in 1974-75.

He announced most of his staff Thursday, including former Pittsburgh Steelers assistant and Missouri and Vanderbilt head coach Woody Widenhofer as defensive coordinator.

Widenhofer is "pretty well versed in every defense there is,'' Mumme said.

Other staff members are Carlton Buckels at secondary; Shannon Dawson and Gary Goff, wide receivers; Mumme's son Matt Mumme, quarterbacks; and Mason Miller, running backs.

Southeastern athletic director Frank Pergolizzi said a national search for Mumme's replacement had already begun.

"Our plan is to be expeditious but also thorough and selective in the process with the hopes of having a new coach named by the start of classes (Jan. 18),'' Pergolizzi said. "Our focus will be to find the best candidate who has a proven track record of success. ... The ideal candidate will also have a background in a wide-open and exciting offensive style of play.''

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press