Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Aggies, and conference realignment

Are the New Mexico State Aggies candidates to join the Mountain West/Conference USA merger?

I'm sure they are, along with every other school with a Division I football program west of the Mississippi.

But here's what conference realignment presents, and the reality facing NMSU. These leagues adding teams are looking for two things: TV markets and marketable football programs. And, at the moment, the Aggies really have neither.

There are other WAC schools that are sure to be in the running as well. Louisiana Tech, Utah State and San Jose State either have better football teams at the moment — as in this past year with both La. Tech and USU — or are located in bigger markets (San Jose State). Utah State is in Logan, Utah, although their regional rivals Utah and BYU are not in the newly-formed merger — Utah's in the Pac 12, BYU is an independent. One could even make the argument that new WAC members Texas State and Texas San Antonio are appealing choices.

The one thing the Aggies have going for them is geography — being close to UTEP and the University of New Mexico makes for easy travel in the conference and good rivalry games. But perhaps this works against them as well — NMSU hasn't been in the same league with either of their regional rivals since being members of the Border Conference, and many in the region say politics plays a factor in such divisions. Read this recent email response from former New Mexico State University President Mike Martin, now the chancellor at LSU:

“Why aren’t NMSU, UNM and UTEP in the same conference? There is no rational explanation. This has to do with ‘institutional egos’ and the illusive pursue of TV revenue. Several schools have fallaciously assumed they can move to a conference that will somehow lead to the generation of sufficient revenues to more than cover the additional cost of being in the new conference — whether the Mountain West or Conference USA or whatever. In reality beyond the four and half major football conferences (in the FBS) there is not and will not be enough money from TV and related revenue to make any real difference.”

The Mountain West and Conference USA merged 16 teams and are looking to get to 18 to 24. If the Aggies are added, it will likely be as the 23rd or 24th team, not the 17th or 18th.

And there's a good chance the WAC will get raided of at least a couple programs — the conference's future would seem to be in serious jeopardy. That, and commissioner Karl Benson remains a serious candidate to take over the same position in the Sun Belt — CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported on Tuesday that Benson would be named the league's new commissioner on Thursday.

If the Aggies don't find their way into the expanded merger, they better have a plan in place for if/when the WAC disintegrates further.

Connecting the dots, a return to the Sun Belt — where the Aggies were members from 2001-05 — is not out of the question.

Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg


Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the expanded MWC to fracture when the better teams figure out that the lesser teams are only dividing up the pie, not adding to it.

Look out UNM.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is that the WAC was the best non BCS conference about 4-5 year ago, with Boise & Hawaii going to BCS bowls and Fresno getting those tough wins.

Instead of adding teams to solidify the conference. Karl Benson just stayed put and let the Mountain Waaah pluck our conference apart.

Now, he is going to cut & run to the Sun Belt! What a terrible turn of events for such a promising conference.

framer said...

I would anticipate that should the WAC lose additional schools to other conferences that the WAC would end up folding and the remaining schools would absorb into the Sun Belt Conference. This has been my personal thought ever since the MWC and C-USA started talking about a "Super Conference." I truly believe that any and all mid major conferences will have to trend this direction just so that they can appear more viable against the larger and more dominant conferences.

All of this talk surrounds football, and all of the schools that enter into this type of conference will need to evaluate any move based on their athletic programs as a whole. Look at basketball in particular...currently each of these conferences has one automatic bid into the NCAA tourney. Will that continue to be the case with the super conferences? Or will these so called super conferences have two bids each year when it comes to March Madness? The same holds true with baseball, softball, and I am sure other sports as well.

What will the outcome be? That is all yet to be determined by the individual schools, conferences, and NCAA.

Anonymous said...

Karl Benson could have done wonders in the WAC.

Instead he stood on the sidelines and the WAC became the Weak Ass Conference under his watch!

I would like to think that as the new Sun Belt Commisioner he might try to merge both the WAC & the Sun Belt.
However, the logistics of having to travel from Seattle to Florida (Atlantic & International) is just fantasy.

So long WAC..it was nice knowing ya!

Anonymous said...

A little off topic here but, I just saw that Oklahoma comes to Utep in September.

Thats kind of nice for the local fan base to see a team of that caliber.
We all have to admit it but, Bob Stull is day & night, a bteer AD than McBoston.

Over the past 5 years I've seen Texas, Texas Tech and now OU come and play Utep.
While McBoston is worried about away $$ games. Stull is still getting those $$ games but, in a 1 for two setting.

Oh yeah, we get BYU during Thanksgiving break this year.
The same week everyone is out of town!
Great job in scheduling those games McRib, errh, McBoston!


Anonymous said...

Sorry Ted but NMS isn't even in the picture why because NMS has nothing to offer.

This is about football money and TV sets. NMS has no TV market as the president of UTEP said and
NMS football has a long history of failure.You belong in the Big Sky Conference.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:52,

What the UTEP didn't admit was that UTEP wouldn't have been invited had it not been in CUSA. You see, the Miner football team, although their record isn't as dismal as the Aggies, have had about five winning seasons in the last 40+ years. Five. They are not quite as bad as NMSU. And next year, they will be lucky to win 3 games.

Oh, and sure there are more TV sets in El Paso, but that's only part of the story. There are 800,000 people in El Paso, and the Miners can't average 32,000 at their games. Compare that to NMSU, who average about 12,000 or so, but have a population of 110,000 in the surrounding area. By percentage, the Aggies do better at the gate than UTEP does.

In the end, neither team has much to offer. Had UTEP been in the WAC, they'd be stuck just like the Aggies.

Anonymous said...

So, is it conspiracy theory to state that NMSU will be lobbied against by UTEP and UNM officials? Or, does NMSU not give UTEP/UNM any arguments to make? Does what UNM/UTEP prefer in future members matter in such a large group? Can the legislature pressure UNM to make a case for NMSU, but would rather not? Does anybody really care in NM? I think the latter is the biggest issue? Try asking a random person from Reserve, NM if they are worried about conference realignment!

Anonymous said...

I dont understand why everyone keeps mentioning TV issues. I mean maybe Im stupid or something but how many UTEP/UNM/NMSU games do you actually see on tv? For tv ratings to be a factor shouldnt teams actually have to play on tv?

I know that this whole mess is because of football. But someone really has to get their head out of their butt and realize that this conference isnt exactly football strong. They wont get an automatic bid with the teams that they have and if the BCS ever makes changes to their system they are pretty much screwed again. Why not gear it towards basketball instead? The MWC already has a solid basketball league, CUSA is so so and if they get Nevada, USU and NMSU in the mix that would be one of the best basketball conferences in the West. Better than the PAC 12 at least. We all know football is king but really none of these schools are a true factor year in and year out to make it work. Be like the Big East, weak in FB but one of the best basketball conferences out there year in and out.

If both UNM and UTEP play us in just about every single sport every year, every single year, we might as well be in their damn conference.