Monday, April 30, 2012

Realignment: The questions, the concerns, the possibilities

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


Arthur said...

Seems like nobody wants us...maybe we should drop football and concentrate on all other sports. I know its a terrible thought....

Anonymous said...

Well I don't want to rush to judgement, but I hope NMSU has been doing something since all the re-alignment begin a year ago. I know they try holding out thinking the WAC would survive, but it's not happening now. The MWC would make the most sense because of the natural rivalries, but it just depends on whether NMSU can sell themselves. I'm very much against the Sun Belt because that's a trash conference, but since we have a historically poor football program beggars can't be choosers. Re-alignment is killing college sports and rivalries. Keep your fingers crossed folks!!!!

Anonymous said...

We've seen the writing on the wall for some time now.
The nail on the coffin was when that, worthless, Kaka Benson high tailed and left the WAC high & dry.

Not sure what will happen to NMSU. All I know is that I'll purchase my season FB tickets as, there may no longer be D-1 FB in Las Cruces in the near future.


Anonymous said...

This is great news.I'm loving every minute of it.

Anonymous said...

Let's see... 50+ years as a pretender D1/FBS losing program has been a positive step-NOT!!!Wanna keep football? NMSU NEEDS to go the FCS route and learn HOW TO WIN football games instead of being fresh meat for legit D1 football programs...

Anonymous said...

Here's my suspicion. Ags will move to Sun Belt for football only. WAC will remain in place for Olympic sports and will include Seattle, NMSU, Denver, Idaho, UT Arlington, etc. This will resolve Sun Belt travel concern for NMSU since travel would only be for football.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:01,

There will always be fresh meat. Look at UTEP, five winning seasons in 40+ years. Look at UNM...the worst D1 school the last 3 or 4 years. If not being fresh meat was the criteria for being invited or staying in a conference for that matter, the lower levels of many conferences would be playing non D1 level ball.

The fact is, there will be the OUs, Alabamas, UTs, USCs of the football world and there will be the UTEPs, UNMs and NMSUs.

Anonymous said...

Lets hope we have a good year so we can get an invite from the MWC! 8-4 will save us from going down to FCS OR the Sunbelt conference . FRANCO

Anonymous said...

Assuming that all of this takes place and the WAC only retains NMS and Idaho I'm wondering how many athletes will transfer ?

Anonymous said...

At the Texas State press conference
Benson said that the Sun Belt will stick with a Texas to Florida footprint also the conference intends to tightly control travel costs.

Anonymous said...

How about going to the MWC and telling them that the Aggies won't take a slice of their bowl or TV package revenue for 5 years if they join the conference?