New Mexico Highlands University head football coach Josh Kirkland resigned on Wednesday to become the head coach at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. Kirkland was hired in February 2020, and he went 5-6 in his one full season at the helm of the Cowboys. 

New Mexico Highlands head football coach Josh Kirkland has resigned from his position to take the same role at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, NMHU announced Wednesday. 

Kirkland was named NMHU’s football coach in February 2020, but had his entire first season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After winning the 2021 spring game against Fort Lewis, Kirkland led the Cowboys to a 5-6 record this past season, including key wins over Colorado State University Pueblo and Western New Mexico. This was the team’s most wins since 2012. 

“We appreciate the effort and time Josh put into the Cowboy football program these two years,” NMHU Director of Athletics Andrew Ehling said in Wednesday’s announcement. “He brought Highlands back into the conversation in the RMAC. We wish him and his family the best at their next destination.”

Ehling announced that associate head coach Ron Hudson will take over as the interim head coach of the Cowboys. There is no word at this time how long a search for Kirkland’s permanent replacement might take. 

In 2021, NMHU saw huge jumps offensively in the RMAC statistical rankings, rocketing from the very bottom of the conference to the top in many areas. The Cowboys finished first in total offense, passing, first downs, and red zone efficiency, second in third down conversions, and third in total rushing. Kirkland’s team also finished ranked No. 19 in the entire nation in total offense.

NMHU went 2-9 the year before Kirkland arrived in Las Vegas, and 0-11 three seasons ago. 

Southwestern Oklahoma State Athletic Director Todd Helton announced Kirkland’s hiring just after news of his resignation broke. 

“I cannot thank Coach Helton and Dr. Lovell (SWOSU president) enough for allowing me this opportunity and welcoming me with open arms,” Kirkland said in Southwestern Oklahoma State’s announcement. “My wife and I are extremely excited about moving to Weatherford and getting to be a part of this western Oklahoma community.”

This past season, Southwestern Oklahoma State went 0-11. 

Prior to joining NMHU’s staff, Kirkland was the associate head coach at Division I Incarnate Word for two seasons, from which he brought several assistant coaches with him to Las Vegas. 

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