The Rock Leaves New Mexico

I could never get myself to call him former Lobo Coach as Rocky Long is Lobo football!

So for those of you that don't know it yet Coach Rocky Long has stepped down as the head coach of the Lobo football program. Sorry folks, I can't do a sanitized or even professional story about this. I'm really bummed about tonight's news… I'm saddened because for the past 8 years since we started TheRedMenace.com we have gotten to know and love Coach Long around these parts!

 Who would have thought being a 40 year old man I could still have a hero… There I said it Rocky Long is a hero to this delusional fan. Coach Long showed up to UNM in 1998 to coach his alma mater. He left the comforts of the PAC-10 UCLA Bruins D-coordinator position to be a head coach at a school that has known more misery then mediocrity. While greatness has always escaped the grasp of Lobo fans…

 It was 3 years later that 2 goofballs on the radio got together and said, "why don't we start a group in that new North End Zone and go hang out there… So we started talking to the powers that be and through our website started trying to sell tickets into that north end zone section… Our idea was to be loud and boisterous and riotous like the Dawg Pound in Cleveland…

 
Somewhere in that time 4th year Coach Rocky Long caught wind of what we were doing and with UNM marketing at the time had a meet and greet in The Tow Diehm facility. It was the first time I ever met Coach Long and to be honest my life has never been the same since. Rocky talked to the fans that day telling them how important a fan base is to his program and how our group could be special and the catalyst for the UNM football program…


Coach Rocky Long speaks to The Red Menace in 2001!
Click here to read the Daily Lobo story on our humble start

I remember that night like it was yesterday as Graphic Connections made a ton of Red Menace T-shirts to had out to everyone at the meet and greet and how excited and proud I was to be able to do something for the Lobo community.

 

Shortly thereafter Dom, John Salazar, and myself started attending Lobo football practices and talking to coaches and players. And Coach Long being the type of guy he was thrilled to have us! The papers in those days didn't cover Lobo football like they do now, radio for Lobo football wasn't non-existent but it wasn't really bubbling with excitement, and every so often a TV camera would show up.

 

Dom, John, and myself quickly became the guys that would take pictures of the players, put them on the website, interview them with questions. In other words we gave a rat's ass when no other media really did. The season kicked off and the Lobo Leap was born…

 

And behind all of silly dreams of ours and hopes of creating tradition was Coach Rocky Long! He encouraged his players and coaches to speak with us. He would speak with us and answer our questions, and then he invited us to the Lobo Coaches Luncheon, so we went there and bumped elbows with the elite media… Of course media members there questioned our right to be there, after all we weren't media, we were those fools in the North End Zone. While we didn't know it at the time, the guy that went to bat to get us media credentials… Rocky Long!

As our first year was ending we came up with the idea of The Red Menace Fan Appreciation Award… The first year we didn't make it up to the stage, but who guaranteed that we would every year after that… Rocky Long!


Coach Rocky Long with Red Menace members and Scott Gerhardt The original winner of
The Red Menace Fan Appreciation Award!


We wanted to do a weekly interview with one of the football players on the website every week, his own column if you will. That player ended up being Big C. The guy that encouraged all of that player/fan interaction… Rocky Long!

The guy that would mention The Red Menace to the newspapers, radio, TV, both locally and outside of New Mexico… Rocky Long!

Why? Why would Coach Long take interest in us folks that don't have much money or prestige sitting in the end zone? Why would he support us and talk to people about our YAFL ticket program? Why?

 

In today's presser Coach Long said, "I'm not a sexy, flashy enough, arrogant coach. I don't have the right image." Well we have a word for that Coach Long… We call guys like you junkyard dogs. Grizzled, mangy, fighters who will attack you I they don't like you, but are still loyal to a fault, and make no doubt about it Coach Long has always been loyal to the University of New Mexico!

 Coach was younger and possibly naïve back then thinking that he could build a fan base around here, and a winning program…

 Flashback to last year and quite possibly the greatest moment in this sports fans life as my University of New Mexico Lobo football team captured the New Mexico Bowl trophy and I got to celebrate with all my Lobo football players and my Lobo football coaches! It was by far the greatest moment of my sports life…

This should have been the catalyst for this program to take off! This should have been the harbinger of greatness for Coach Long and for Lobo football program to take off both in the stands and on the field… You would think Lobo fans could finally say, we have arrived as a program!


Rocky after New Mexico Bowl Victory over Nevada in 2007!


 

Toss in that TCU, Texas A&M and Arizona were coming to town… You would think that Lobo fans would be chomping at the bit to come out to the stadium and watch Lobo football take off. Instead those regular excuses of Balloon Fiesta, State Fair, ticket prices to high, and the millions of other excuses that everyone yaps about once again became prevalent. The Lobos lose some games and the so called fans soured quickly, toss in many key injuries, and constant shredding in the papers, radio, and internet websites and the frustration boiled over…

 
So today November 17, 2008 Coach Rocky Long decides it is time to leave…on his terms. He isn't flashy, he doesn't make a big production of it, and for those of you that don't realize it, he also doesn't force UNM to fire him for a huge severance package. Like a true hero in a Clint Eastwood movie he gets on his horse and rides off into the sunset.

 Coach Long leaves in my opinion the same reason that other successful coaches have left UNM in my opinion. Very little support both financially, program wise, and fan base. While I have to give credit to Paul Krebs and David Schmidley for going out and trying to support Lobo football with salary increases and recruiting budget increases. It just wasn't enough to catch the big 3 in the MWC…

So that brings me back to my question why Coach Rocky Long constantly reaches out to The Red Menace with his support? Why did he put a mural of us in his football stadium, and in the press guide, and in the weight room, and the practice field… And I think the answer was said in his final press conference…

 
"The community has to get behind a good football coach, and fill up the damn stadium every single game win or lose. Jump in with both feet and make this place special if they want to get on top. You need something special you can sell here! You want to compete with the big boys you better start acting like a big time program! And that isn't just the football team, and the football coaches, that's the damn fans! Since I'm quitting I can finally say it."

 
Rocky tried very hard to help The Red Menace out because he felt that maybe us loyal junkyard dogs could be the grassroots beginning of of filling up the stadium… And start acting like a big time program… Ultimately, we couldn't do it, and neither could he…

 

Thanks Coach Long! There will never be another coach like you ever at the University of New Mexico and in my humble opinion I must say that the South Campus is a lot dimmer today as UNM's biggest fan has left the building…

Inside The Lobos Top Stories