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The New Mexico State Aggies football team represents New Mexico State University in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) college football competition as an independent. Although New Mexico State remains a member of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for other sports, the WAC ceased to offer football as a sport after the 2012 season due to a realignment in which most of its football-playing members left for other conferences.
On September 12, 2012, New Mexico State announced that it would stay in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and become an independent. New Mexico State will return to the Sun Belt Conference (of which it was formerly a full member) in 2014 for football only.
Despite some impressive single game wins and individual player stats, the Aggies have struggled as a team on the field. As of 2013, the team had not appeared in a bowl game since 1960. This is the longest period of any FBS team without a bowl appearance.
One of New Mexico State's earliest football games was the first match-up against in-state rival New Mexico on January 1, 1894.
Jerry Hines began coaching the Aggies in 1929, and was also coach of the men's basketball team. Hines’ teams competed well in the new Border Conference. Between 1934 and 1938, the football record was 31-10-6, and the team was invited to the first Sun Bowl in 1936 where they tied the powerful Hardin-Simmons Cowboys 14-14. Hines' coaching career ended with his induction into military service during World War II.
Future Hall of Fame inductee Warren B. Woodson took over as head coach in 1958. He previously had success at the Conway Teachers College (now Central Arkansas) and Hardin-Simmons. In his second season at New Mexico State, Woodson's team defeated North Texas in the 1959 Sun Bowl. The following year, Woodson guided the Aggies to an 11–0 finish, the only perfect season in school history. That year, New Mexico State defeated Utah State, 20–13, in the 1960 Sun Bowl and attained a final AP Poll ranking of 17th. Quarterback Charley Johnson won the bowl MVP honors both years becoming the first and still only player in NCAA history to win the MVP award from the same bowl game in back-to-back years. Johnson went on to play in the NFL for 15 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Oilers, and Denver Broncos. During his NFL career he managed to complete a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering making him one of only a handful of NFL player to earn a Ph.D. Dr. Charles Johnson is now a professor and department head of the Chemical Engineering school at NMSU.
The Aggies continued to fare well under Woodson through the 1967 season. However at the end of that season university administration, with whom Woodson had a contentious relationship throughout his career, invoked a clause requiring state employees to retire at age 65. Thus Woodson, who would turn 65 that offseason, was essentially forced out despite a 7-2-1 1967 campaign that ended with a 54-7 shellacking of archrival New Mexico. Since his departure Aggie football has spiraled into an abyss of perennial futility that some Aggie fans have begun to refer to as the "Woodson Curse." In the 40 seasons since Woodson's firing, NMSU has amassed just four winning seasons and two conference titles in 1976 and 1978, while failing to appear in a single bowl game. The Aggies' current 52-year bowl drought is the longest in Div-1A/FBS. The Aggies once again failed to accrue enough victories to be bowl eligible for the 2012 postseason.
Between 1995 and 1998, running back Denvis Manns became the third college football player to rush for 1,000 yards each of his four seasons. At that time the only other backs that had accomplished the feat at that time were Tony Dorsett (University of Pittsburgh) and Amos Lawrence (University of North Carolina). As of the end of the 2008 season, there are six players to have accomplished the feat.
On September 18, 1999 the Aggies traveled to Tempe under coach Tony Samuel and upset the #22 ranked Arizona State Sun Devils by a shocking 35-7 score.
At the end of the 2008 season the Aggies ended their fourth season under Hal Mumme at 3-9 (1-7 WAC) with a disappointing 47-2 loss to the Utah State Aggies. The following Tuesday, December 2, Mumme was fired. Mumme's record at NMSU over 4 seasons was 11-38. The former quarterback and 15-year NFL veteran Charley Johnson, who was then a chemical engineering professor at New Mexico State, was appointed as interim head coach during the search for a replacement. Former UCLA Defensive Coordinator DeWayne Walker was named NMSU's head coach on December 31, 2008 signifying a new direction for the pass offense-oriented squad.