New Mexico Highlands fires head football coach Ron Hudson

May 3—New Mexico Highlands head football coach Ron Hudson was fired Wednesday after leading the Cowboys for two seasons.

A first-time head coach with over 30 years of experience as an assistant, he led Division II NMHU to a 5-16 record, recording all wins in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) play. The Cowboys had just finished spring practice and per Hudson, were in the middle of recruiting prep and college prospects.

"The New Mexico Highlands Athletic Department thanks Coach Hudson for his services to our student-athletes and community and wishes him the best in his future endeavors," NMHU said in a release. "A nationwide search to identify a replacement will begin immediately."

NMHU, based in Las Vegas, N.M., is searching for its 13th head football coach since 2000.

Hudson, 59, told the Journal that NMHU co-athletic directors Jim Deisler and Shanna Halalilo told him about their decision in between player exit meetings on Wednesday afternoon, and that he was able to meet with a few players immediately after to tell them about their move.

Hudson said the program was deliberately taking it slow in his two years at the helm and felt they were in "decent shape" at the conclusion of spring practice. NMHU has not had a winning season since 2012 and has had as many winless seasons (2) as winning seasons since 2000.

"(We were) trying to build it with a good combination of New Mexico high school players and transfers, which, I don't know if that had been done for a while," he said. "It really felt like we had a chance to get to do that and, you know, I guess they decided we weren't doing a good enough job or they just wanted to make a change."

Among the issues facing the program, he added, is a lack of funding. Hudson claimed the staff was notified at the end of last season that the team didn't have the expected recruiting budget available and had to largely work without it.

"We were able to improvise, we did a lot of phone recruiting, we were able to scrape a little bit of money together to get a couple guys to go on the road and do some things here in state," he said. "Kinda got out in the university vehicles and (spent) a little bit of money. I mean, we basically kind of scraped and did what we could do to find a way to hustle."

Despite the issues, he said coaching at NMHU was a "tremendous experience" and that he leaves the program with no bitterness.

"The (coaching turnover is) a challenge," he said. "Financially, things are tough here. We're not only at the bottom of the conference, we're near the bottom nationally in athletic department budget ... I'd like to think that if there was some stability here and they got a little bit more financial backing, this thing could be a sleeping giant.

"I really believe that because of the location. You're up in the mountains, you're around a number of ski resorts. There's a lot of wildlife here. It's a beautiful place. So I just think it's a great spot."

A Columbus, Ohio native, Hudson lived in New Mexico as a teenager and attended Highland High School for a period. After playing offensive line at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio, he embarked on a coaching journey that took him to 17 different schools over 33 seasons, including a stint as New Mexico's offensive line coach in 2011.

Hudson was hired as NMHU's associate head coach and special teams coordinator in 2021. He served in that capacity for one season before he was promoted to his first head coaching role after former head coach Josh Kirkland left for the head job at Southwestern Oklahoma State.

Hudson said he has already been in contact regarding some high school and college jobs.

"There's a real good likelihood that I'll be in New Mexico," he said, "but I haven't ruled anything out."