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CARBONDALE - SIU will have to hire a new athletic director as well as a new chancellor after Mario Moccia left to take over his alma mater.

SIU President Randy Dunn took over as interim chancellor of the Carbondale campus earlier this month following the untimely death of Paul Sarvela. New Mexico State introduced Moccia as its new athletic director, effective Jan. 5, 2015, at a news conference in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on Monday. Moccia came to SIU in 2006 and spearheaded the $83 million Saluki Way project that brought new facilities for the football, basketball and track teams.

He also oversaw a $4.2 million project to renovate Abe Martin Field, the home of the baseball team, and improvements to the volleyball facilities at Davies Gym.

"This is an exciting day for me and my family," Moccia said. "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."

Moccia was a two-time most valuable player for the Aggies' baseball team and was inducted into the New Mexico State Hall of Fame in 1998. He graduated from New Mexico State in 1989 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology and added a master's degree in sports administration from New Mexico in 1993.

Moccia previously worked as the associate athletic director for external operations, and later, the senior associate director of athletics at Missouri between 1998-2006. He also worked at Texas State University from 1997-98 and at New Mexico from 1993-97.

New Mexico State President Garrey Carruthers complimented Moccia's fundraising ability and efforts to grow SIU's brand in his introduction Monday.

"He has a tremendous amount of leadership experience in university athletics and is skilled in working with the NCAA," he said. "Importantly, he's a talented fundraiser and clearly a person who knows how to build sponsorships. He's also an NMSU Aggie."

SIU won conference championships in 12 sports during Moccia's tenure: football, men's and women's basketball, women's golf, men's and women's cross country, men's tennis, softball, men's and women's track and field and women's swimming and diving. Moccia also helped develop the school's first radio network through a long-term deal with Learfield Sports. He also helped secure a five-year contract with Under Armour in 2012 to be the official outfitter for all 17 Saluki sports teams, coaches and staff.

Academically, SIU's student-athletes had a cumulative grade point average above 3.0 last year.

"We congratulate Mario on his appointment as director of athletics at his alma mater, New Mexico State University, and thank him for his significant service advancing the SIU Carbondale athletics program over the past eight years," Dunn said in a statement. "His vision and leadership developing Saluki Way ensures that our student-athletes, as well as our community members and fans, will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities for many years to come. We also value his focus on the success of student-athletes in the classroom as well as in competition."

Dunn said the school will move forward within the next week to identity an interim athletic director as it begins a permanent search for Moccia's replacement.

New Mexico State had 28,262 students in the fall semester last year and competes in 17 sports. The Aggies are a Football Bowl Subdivision program that competes in the Sun Belt Conference. All of their other sports compete in the Western Athletic Conference with Bakersfield (California), Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Missouri-Kansas City, Seattle, Texas-Pan American and Utah Valley.

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todd.hefferman@thesouthern.com

618-351-5087 / On Twitter: @THefferman

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Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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