Just over two months ago, Karl Benson left the Western Athletic Conference as commissioner for the Sun Belt, and the Cruces Sports Blog addressed the questions and concerns that faced New Mexico State University following such a turn of events.
Now, similar questions arise — where will the Aggies go, and what conference will they find to call home?
Lets first get this out of the way: this is a football question. The Aggies olympic sports will find a league. But with NMSU football's history, could its future as an FBS program be in jeopardy?
For starters, the WAC is done as a football league, soon-to-be left with just NMSU and Idaho. Louisiana Tech and Texas-San Antonio will hitch their horses to Conference USA, while Utah State and San Jose State appear set to join the Mountain West, and Texas State to the Sun Belt.
Never mind that the Aggies have put a competitive athletics program on the field of play this year. An improved football team, an NCAA tournament appearance in men's basketball and a top-25 program on the baseball field. They are currently ranked No. 3 in the WAC Commissioner's Cup standings, and finished third the previous two years, while some of the soon-to-be departed WAC programs can't get out of the basement.
No, in this particular instance, none of these factors seem to matter.
The realignment scramble has been predicated on television markets, football success, and simply overall financial investment into the sports programs.
In these areas, the Aggies could very well fall short. That, along with political pull, and having friends in high places. Yes, NMSU is painted into somewhat of a corner here, and it's getting tighter.
Still, there must be — better be — some places for the Aggies to turn. Some possible options going forward:
• Sun Belt Conference in some form or fashion: Benson could be the Aggies saving grace in this whole process, although the decision to include NMSU in this league that seemingly is planted in the southeast and east-Texas region of the United States is not up to the commissioner, rather its school presidents. And, yes, there are options in this region for further expansion, whether it be a Charlotte, or a Georgia Southern, a Lamar or a Sam Houston State. Does the conference want to come this far west? Perhaps for a football-only affiliation with the Aggies. This still could very well be the best option for NMSU — joining the SBC as a football member, even if it were for just a few years, and finding a home — perhaps a non-football playing, reinvented WAC — for its olympic sports.
• Mountain West or Conference USA: Conference USA seems like a longshot — aside from UTEP being a member, the league is also on the brink of expanding into Texas. The Miners seem to be balking at joining the Mountain West, and UTSA would now appear to be a nice travel partner for them. Perhaps the Mountain West could have a door open up. Still, both leagues, at least in the immediate future, seem like long-shot destinations for the Aggies at the moment.
• Independent football: Could this work for a SHORT period of time? Perhaps for a year or two. But scheduling would be a nightmare — the Aggies have a hard enough time filling a schedule with guaranteed conference games attached to it — and it also feels like the next step toward football extinction.
• FCS football: Southland Conference anyone? How about the Big Sky? Clearly not the first choice for Aggie administration.
Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg