Not all bowl game press conferences are created equal.
Of course, not all bowl game press conferences involve the athletic director and head football coach of a team that has officially ended a streak of 57 years without attending a bowl game.
Actually, I’m pretty sure none of them have.
As nice as that is, and as happy as I am for this moment (and all of the other happy moments that have made up this season for Aggies fans) that’s not why I’m leading off with this video. Let me work my way through some quotes:
“The atmosphere last night was just… that was just awesome. That was college football at its best. The way our students were, dancing around, the band… the officials came over and warned me that the band was being too loud about five times, it was just awesome.
That was just a great atmosphere, and that’s what it can be like every Saturday here in Las Cruces. That’s been my vision, that football here can look like that every Saturday, and I really believe it can. If people jump on board with us here, there’s no telling what we can’t do.”
This is probably the second most important statement in the entire 25-minute video.
I assure you that Coach Martin wasn’t the only one who noticed the crowd, both its size and its intensity. This current team of Aggies was playing their second consecutive week of football in front of a home crowd of over 20,000 people, but anyone on this team who was a freshman or sophomore had never played in front of a crowd that big in Las Cruces until those last two games.
Hell, the people in the stands were probably taken aback by this experience, since the 2015 home opener against Georgia State was the only game in the last nine years with better attendance than this one.
As any Conference USA player who has played at UTSA can tell you, having a large number of people and a large amount of noise at your game do not necessarily go hand in hand. I can speak from experience; I was at South Alabama’s home game against Troy last season, and the 30,000+ in attendance were deafening (and dominated by Troy fans).
I was there this year for Oklahoma State, and while there weren’t actually 26,000 people there, you’d have a hard time convincing me that 2600 were in attendance with how quiet it was most of the night.
For the Aggies to not only have 26,000+ in attendance for the game, but to have that crowd also providing support, energy, and motivation to the New Mexico State football team because of the sheer volume and vibrancy of their support, is a much bigger deal than you think.
“The crowd is very important to our team and it’s a must to have the seats filled in crimson, because they are our voices,” junior linebacker Terrill Hanks said. “They play a big role in the way we play, and they are the face of this university. To have them rush a field like they did last week was something I could never forget.”
We should also not get this confused; it’s true that some portion of that increase in attendance was there for the opportunity for history to occur, but at the same time that history perhaps doesn’t occur if the team doesn’t have that amount of people and that amount of volume backing them on every play.
Hanks pointed out how great it was to have the crowd audibly and forcefully behind them when the refs were reviewing Jaleel Scott’s reception in the first half, and Conner Cramer, the senior wideout who eventually caught the game-winning touchdown, echoed those sentiments.
“It was electric on Saturday. [The fans] showed up and got loud for us; I think [that] was a huge impact on the game. Our defense plays outstanding when the crowd gets into it. That translates to the offense too; everyone wants to be that guy to make a play and get the crowd even more fired up.”
Coach Martin is right that this is what every Saturday can look like. A big crowd, or even just a raucous crowd, one that urges the Aggies on and gets them excited about being successful in ways that gets the crowd even more into the game; positive momentum is a real living thing in a football game.
It’s also present over larger periods of time.
“Our deal now is moving it forward. This is not the end of the journey, this is the beginning of the journey.”
This is very true. It’s easy to get caught up in the joy of having achieved something that’s not been achieved by so many others for so long, but if you truly believed that “a .500 record and an appearance in a bowl game” is an acceptable end destination, then we probably need to have a talk about that dial-up internet you’re still using.
The goal is always a championship. When a decent season hasn’t been had in some time, it’s absolutely accurate and appropriate and wonderful to treat it like it’s own championship level achievement, but you can’t slow down until and unless you’ve achieved the highest possible honor you can achieve. I’m not about to say that the Aggies should be dreaming of a College Football Playoff spot, but a higher win total and a more prestigious bowl would certainly be a logical next step.
Just because you’re the first person ever to even make it three-quarters of the way up Mount Everest doesn’t mean that you’re going to set up camp, spend the night, and then hike down in the morning. Yes, you’ve achieved something that nobody else could, and it’s a new personal best for you, but if you can go further, you always should.
That’s where this Aggies team is now. Finishing 6-6 is great, and 7-6 will be nice, but 6-7 won’t take anything away from this season. That’s not the end goal, though. The end goal is 8-5, 9-4 and so on.
One of the ways the Aggies will achieve such increasingly large goals is with increasingly large support from the people in Las Cruces who’ve got a short trip to get to Aggie Memorial with their money, their mouths and their clever cheers in tow.
You got to see Saturday (and even the week before) what this team is truly capable of when the community they play for shows up and lets them know that the community they are playing for is there for them. They need to know that the crowd won’t dip to 6,000 just because you’re pessimistic now that Tyler Rogers and Larry Rose III are graduating.
That support is valuable – not just to the Aggies, but to those outside the program as well.
“Every Saturday we go out now we’re an independent. Every week we play we are auditioning for another conference.”
This has been true ever since the Aggies officially recieved an end-date on their Sun Belt membership, but it’s even more true now. However, it’s crucial to know that this audition process applies to every single thing about New Mexico State University, from how the football team does on Saturdays to how the school fundraises on a Tuesday, from how well their fans show up to their sporting events to how well their student-athletes perform when they’re being students and not athletes.
Even if you aren’t someone who chooses to support the football team because you really don’t give a rip about football, support the university and the athletics department because you give a rip about the university you attended. Support them because you saw how these players felt to achieve what seemed unachievable, and you want to play a part in future Aggies being able to have that feeling.
That won’t go unnoticed by the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA, the Sun Belt, or any other conference who realizes that there’s a program in Las Cruces that is most certainly in the middle of geographic nowhere, but is achieving things a lot of other universities are not, both on and off the field, with a long list of handicaps that nobody else has.
If you can do your part to help minimize those handicaps, in whatever small way works for you, then you can make sure that that amazing feeling that everyone shared on a Saturday night in Las Cruces is one that keeps happening over and over again, and is the start of a positive momentum that becomes unstoppable.
You’ll be able to say with pride “yes, but my Aggies are the best Aggies.”