As New Mexico State introduced new head coach Doug Martin on Monday morning, the program sits fresh off a 1-11 season in Las Cruces, N.M., without a conference home. Many people may view that as strikes one, two and three. Those people are not Doug Martin.
"I think this program has unlimited potential," Martin said. "What we've got to do is take that potential and make it reality."
In fact, that positivity is ultimately what sold New Mexico State athletic director Dr. McKinley Boston on Martin.
"Coach Martin's passion to be a head coach, his desire to be here were what impacted me," said Boston. "From the time he had the opportunity to come back, there was no hesitancy. He wants to be here, he wants to be a part of this community and he wants to turn this program around. When I interviewed other people, they were excited about the opportunity but not at the level of Coach Martin."
Boston also had a unusual level of comfort in choosing Martin to lead the Aggies, as Martin served as New Mexico State's offensive coordinator in 2011. After a one-season stint as the offensive coordinator at Boston College, Martin resumed his previous post at New Mexico State before his promotion to head coach following DeWayne Walker's departure for a spot on the Jacksonville Jaguars' defensive staff.
"I had a chance to watch Coach Martin when he was here. I was comfortable with his overall philosophical approach to being a head coach," said Boston. "Usually you don't know what you're getting when you hire an assistant to be a head coach."
Martin's plan on offense is to be a spread attack, admitting that the Aggies will need to outscore people to win on most Saturdays. "We need to be an exciting offense, wide open, which is exactly what I did here before," he said. New Mexico State has openings for an offensive coordinator, tight ends coach and outside linebackers coach.
"I've already begun that process," Martin added. "I already have a plan in place for what we're going to do at those positions."
Martin said he had an extended discussion about defensive coordinator David Elson's vision for the Aggies' defense while the two were recruiting together last week. While he declined to say exactly what that vision would look like, Martin explained, "We will be headed in quite a different direction defensively."
New Mexico State will not be Martin's first sit in the head coaches' chair. He was the head coach at Kent State from 2004-10, where he went 29-53.
"It was a very, very difficult job at that time," Martin said. "I learned a lot of valuable lessons at that time, good and bad. You have a lot more resources here than what we had there. We weren't on a level playing field in terms of recruiting budget and other things. We are here."
As for strikes one, two and three listed above, Martin sees each as a positive for his program.
On the team's losing skid, Martin plans to change the Aggies' mindset off the field first. "The first thing is to get our players with the mindset we want. We're going to compete every day in the classroom and in the community. The field will take care of itself," he explained.
Las Cruces may never be confused for Los Angeles, but Martin still sees the city as a major selling point.
We are the only show in town. Not only do you have great academic programs, you have the passion of these people," said Martin. "My goal is for the people of Las Cruces to take ownership of this football team. The only way they can do that is for us to get out in the community."
The independent schedule, that at one point was rumored to have an in-season home-and-home with fellow independent Idaho just to get to 12 games, Martin sees as just another selling point.
"The independent schedule that we're getting ready to play is a great positive in recruiting," Martin said. "When we step into kids' living rooms, they want to play the best competition. If they don't, I don't want them at New Mexico State."
The Aggies' 2013 slate, while not complete, features visits to Texas, UCLA and Boston College and a home date with Minnesota.
"What I want to do is put this program on a collision course with a bowl game, and that starts today," Martin concluded. "The only way it can work is if we all do this together. If we're all pushing the rock in the same direction, we're going to get it there."