Budget cuts have Aggies going to fans

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Calling all New Mexico State Aggies fans. Your team has the munchies and you can help.

In a twist on Little League moms lining up with after-game treats, New Mexico State's budget-conscious football staff distributed an e-mail this week asking fans to donate after-practice or late-night snacks for hungry players.

It's a consequence of the national economy, of course.

"It's a decision we had to make with regard to our meals," first-year coach DeWayne Walker said Thursday. "There are a lot of other areas where we have to make tough choices with how we're going to spend our money."

Athletic director McKinley Boston said regents directed him to trim $1.5 million from the department's budget, dropping the overall operations figure to about $17 million for the current academic year.

"Obviously, I passed some of that on to all of our athletic programs, including football," Boston said.

That was the bad news. The good news for Walker and his players has been the community's response. The memo went out after the first day of practice, and six donors wasted no time before they ponied up.

We're not talking about Cheetos here.

"It's good stuff like trail mix or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches," linebacker Jamar Cotton said. "We had a guy bring in a bunch of watermelons. That was great. The team was excited. It was like little kids getting lollipops."

The snacks might seem like a luxury to outsiders but players say they're helpful during preseason two-a-days, when the temperature is high and the demanding practices seem endless.

And, no surprise here, young men get hungry. The Aggies eat dinner at 6 p.m., then sit through meetings until 9:30 p.m. By the time they tuck themselves in for bed, their stomachs are rumbling again.

"We practice so hard. We've got to get some extra stuff in the belly after dinner," running back Tonny Glynn said. "It's been really hot every day. We're losing weight from all the workouts."

Offensive lineman Mike Grady said it makes things easier the following day, and a way to keep the energy up.

"Definitely, it helps to go to bed with something in your stomach," he said.

The school is also publicizing an Aug. 25 banquet featuring the football and volleyball teams. Tickets are $50 per person or $600 a table, but Walker characterized that event as "more your typical fundraiser."

Walker declined to disclose how much was trimmed from his program's budget, but noted that New Mexico State's number is "a lot different" than at UCLA, where he was defensive coordinator the past three seasons.

He expressed concern that people outside New Mexico might see the team's request for snacks as juvenile.

The reality, Walker said, is that the Aggies are in the same position as many schools, forced to make tough choices this season.

"Everyone's taking cuts," he said. "I don't want anybody to read into it that we're the poorest program in the country. We're not. And we're not the only mid-level school that has to go through these kinds of issues."