Team preview: New Mexico

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(All information as of July 1, 2006)


In his first eight seasons, Rocky Long has created something many past coaches at New Mexico never had.


"Four or five years ago, if we went 6-5 it was wonderful and everybody around here was happy," Long said. "Last year we went 6-5 and we did a terrible job.

"But that's what you want. That's what everybody wants. Everybody wants to have a good fan base that cares about how you do and expects you to win. You don't want to be at a place people don't care. People here have learned to care. That's how you want it to be."

If that's what Long wanted, he certainly has achieved it -- and rightfully so. His 46 victories are the most by any coach in school history, far surpassing Roy Johnson's total of 21 from 1920-30. Those 46 wins in eight seasons are 17 more than New Mexico had during a 10-year stretch from 1983-92. He's also the first coach to take New Mexico to three bowl games, has had his team bowl-eligible the last five seasons, and the Lobos are 20-12 in their last 32 games under Long despite last year's self-proclaimed "disappointing" 6-5 campaign.

Yes, Long faces expectations in Albuquerque. But he also faces fan appreciation and loyalty, evidenced by the recent contract extension he received to keep him at New Mexico through 2009.

Despite being on the winning side of the ledger more often than not, there's another reason he has received such unconditional support from New Mexico boosters.