LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO (KTSM) – After being one of only three teams to miss the 2020 college football season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, then only playing two FCS opponents in the spring, New Mexico State is facing one of the biggest uphill battles of any team in the history of college football this fall.

“People think we just missed the games, but we didn’t just miss the games; we didn’t practice for over 400 days,” said Aggies head coach Doug Martin. “This has been a huge blow to our program and something we’re trying to overcome.”

The unprecedented season comes at an important time for Martin. 2021 is the final season of a four-year contract extension he signed after winning the first bowl game at NMSU in 57 years back in 2017.

After going 1-1 in the abridged spring season against Tarleton State and Dixie State, there’s uncertainty for Martin entering the fall. He enters 2021 with no guarantees that he’ll return to NMSU in 2022.

“You take it one game at a time and ultimately do your evaluation at the end of the year. Certainly, you have your micro-conversations throughout the year,” said New Mexico State Director of Athletics Mario Moccia.

Martin was paid his full salary of $429,000 for the 2020 season; his assistants and staff members were also paid their allotted salaries. However, when he asked for the lost year back on his and his staff’s contracts, the request was denied by NMSU’s administration.

“It hasn’t been very fair what we’ve gone through,” said Martin. “We missed a whole season and that was counted on our contracts, but we didn’t play that year. I know Connecticut rectified that for their coach. They could’ve done that here, but they chose not to. We understand we’re on our own here and we go play ball.”

As things currently stand, per the extension he signed in 2018, Martin’s contract as the head football coach at New Mexico State will end June 30, 2022.

Connecticut, which also did not play football in the fall of 2020, granted head coach Randy Edsall a two-year contract extension in March that now pushes his deal through Dec. 31, 2023. Edsall’s contract had been set to expire in December, 2021.

At a university already strapped for cash, Moccia says the pandemic only increased New Mexico State’s athletic department budget issues.

“With big ticket items, we were very cautious as an institution in what we wanted to do,” said Moccia. “So, we find ourselves in this position where we go into the season on the last year of a contract, which isn’t optimal for anybody.”

No decisions have yet been made with regards to a contract extension for Martin, nor a non-renewal of his contract. However, there is a way for the deal to roll over on its own.

A clause in Martin’s 2018 contract extension states that if the Aggies win six or more games in a season, Martin automatically gets a one year extension to his contract (with a maximum of four one-year extensions).

On paper, it’s simple: win six games this fall and Martin will remain the head coach at New Mexico State.

“I don’t even give it a second thought, I’m not worried about it,” Martin told KTSM. “I have plans for myself down the road too, so we’ll see what those are.”

Now in his ninth season as the head coach at New Mexico State, Martin is 23-64 with the Aggies. However, he also guided NMSU to its first bowl victory in 57 years, forever etching his name into the record books at NMSU.

Martin is slated to make $437,000 in the final year of his current deal. Moccia is taking a wait-and-see approach to the future, but is cognizant of Martin’s important contributions to New Mexico State football.

“I think an awful lot of Coach Martin and what he’s done for this program,” said Moccia. “And, quite frankly, if this isn’t the toughest Division I FBS job in America, you could count it on one hand.”

The last time Martin entered a season without a contract beyond that year, he led the Aggies to their historic victory in the 2017 Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl. Only time will tell if that feat can be repeated.

NMSU will open its first fall football season since 2019 on August 28 in the Battle of I-10 vs. rival UTEP at Aggie Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.