New Mexico State has plucked away Southern Illinois athletics director Mario Moccia to lead its own department, the school announced on Monday.
Moccia is a New Mexico State alum, which explains why he’d leave a stable Division I program for a department straddling between the its mismatched place in the Sun Belt (in football) and the flailing WAC (in everything else). He’ll earn $240,000 a year, plus incentives.
“This is an exciting day for me and my family,” Moccia said in a statement. “Returning to one’s alma mater is an opportunity not afforded to many people and to come back to Las Cruces and New Mexico State University where I have so many fond memories as a student-athlete makes me a very fortunate individual. I know my wife, Heidi, and children Addie and Gemma are excited as well.
“At the same time there are mixed emotions of leaving a tremendous athletic staff, program and so many friends in the southern Illinois area,” he said. “After eight plus years you create many close friendships and both Heidi and I hope that the distance won’t be an obstacle to continuing them.”
“While I am disappointed to see Mario leave, I completely understand what a unique and fulfilling opportunity it will be for him to serve as athletic director at his alma mater,” Southern Illinois head coach Dale Lennon said. “I will always be grateful for the privilege of working under his leadership and for his unwavering support of the Saluki football program.”
Moccia inherits one of the most challenging football situations in FBS. The Aggies are 4-19 in two years under head coach Doug Martin with one game remaining this season. The Aggies have not won a conference championship since 1978, and last played in a bowl game in 1960.
Moccia had been Southern Illinois’ AD since 2006. A former baseball player, Moccia spent time in the Detroit Tigers’ farm system and was inducted into the school’s athletics hall of fame in 1998.
Moccia was named the Under Armour Athletics Director of the Year in 2013.(Photo credit: New Mexico State athletics)