By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Richard Cundiff is about to end a 22-year run as a coach at Texas A&M-Kingsville, the last seven as the head coach.
This season hasn’t gone the way he’d hoped, but he certainly has company in Eastern New Mexico University coach Mark Ribaudo.
Kingsville, which won four consecutive Lone Star Conference South Division championships from 2001-04, is enduring a rare losing season. The Javelinas (3-5, 0-3 South) and Greyhounds (1-6, 0-4) will both try to break into the South win column in today’s 6 p.m. clash at Greyhound Stadium.
Cundiff said the Javs lost players he had counted on to grades, and a few others chose not to play. He also said the school has decided to make more of a commitment to recruiting high school players over junior college players, who are better prepared for the transition.
“I thought maybe we could win a few more,” he reflected of the season. “When you make the decision to recruit high school kids and not as many JCs, you’re going to take some knocks.”
Cundiff, 52-25 as Kingsville’s head coach, announced early this season that this would be his last year at the school. He said he may pursue other coaching positions.
“I’ve looked into leaving in the past,” he said. “I’ve been here a long time, and I’m still healthy.
“For 33 or 34 years all I’ve ever done is coach. (But) I’m not saying exploring something else isn’t a possibility.”
Ribaudo, who like Cundiff was his school’s defensive coordinator before taking over the head coaching post, said he has much respect for his counterpart.
“He’s been there a long time,” Ribaudo said. “He’s done some great things and been with some great teams.
“(Kingsville) set the standard in the late 80s and 90s and in the 2000s that everybody is shooting for. I’ve got a lot of respect for coach Cundiff, and consider him a friend.”
The Hounds, meantime, are going through tough times of their own. Junior quarterback Michael Benton, the LSC’s second-leading rusher prior to last week, suffered a mild concussion early in Saturday’s 48-0 loss at Tarleton State and his status for today’s game is up in the air.
Ribaudo said Benton started the week slowly and has gradually increased the level of exertion.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” Ribaudo said. “We’re taking our time.”
ENMU has had numerous injuries this season, notably on offense. The Tarleton game didn’t help, Ribaudo said, because of the Texans’ physical style.
“We pride ourselves on being a physical ballclub, but they were probably the most physical team we’ve played in two years,” he said.
Cundiff figures the team that can get more excited about tonight’s game will have the edge.
“Both teams are in need of a win,” he said. “It’s always a hard battle over there. They’re a well-coached team; you don’t see them out of place much.”
Texas A&M-Kingsville at ENMU
6 p.m. today
At Blackwater Draw
Records: Texas A&M-Kingsville 3-5 (0-3 Lone Star Conference South), ENMU 1-6 (0-4).
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
On the Net: www.enmusports.com.
Coaches: Texas A&M-Kingsville, Richard Cundiff, 7th year; ENMU, Mark Ribaudo, 2nd year.
Last week: Texas A&M-Kingsville lost at home to Midwestern State 44-17. ENMU was shut out at Tarleton State 48-0.
Last year: The Javelinas defeated ENMU 26-14 at Kingsville.
Texas A&M-Kingsville players to watch: Raymorris Miller, 5-9, 170, Jr., RB; Jeremy Heatley, 6-3, 200, Fr., QB; Steve Yaden, 6-1, 200, Sr., WR; Scott Schleback, 6-0, 190, Fr., PK; Mike Martinez, 5-10, 215, So., LB.
Notes: The Javelinas lead the all-time series with ENMU 18-3, but the Greyhounds have won two of the last three at Blackwater Draw — 35-7 in 2000 and 37-34 in 2002. Kingsville scored with just over a minute left two years ago to erase a one-point deficit in a 29-22 victory. … Kingsville, traditionally dominant at home, has gone just 1-3 in its own bailiwick this season. … Two of the Javs’ wins this season were in overtime, and the third came on a touchdown in the final minute.
Quotable: “This place will get back right, and it should. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve had my share of success.” — Cundiff, on his impending departure from Kingsville.
— Compiled by Dave Wagner