The New Mexico State Aggies find themselves between a rock and a hard place in conference realignment.
If they want to remain an FBS member, I only see a couple.
• The Sun Belt Conference, although after listening to Karl Benson's press conference the other day, it's safe to say, at this point, the Aggies need the Sun Belt more than the Sun Belt needs the Aggies.
• Going independent, something NMSU did a long time ago. Don't think this would work now, and most certainly not long term.
(Really, either of the two options above would seem like short-term ones — perhaps two to three years)
• Perhaps a door will open in the Mountain West. But the Aggies don't have a lot of allies in that league — can't imagine the University of New Mexico or Nevada going to bat for NMSU. Maybe not even Fresno State.
The Aggies need a power player — whether it be a UNM or a Benson for instance — to help open a door for them. They need some political pull, although the issue is that it's nobody else's job to make sure NMSU survives this. It's the Aggies job to pick up their level of play and make themselves more attractive to other conferences.
Really, how did it come to this?
I realize Las Cruces isn't a burgeoning TV market, but is Ruston, La.? Does Logan, Utah and Utah State offer that much more that Las Cruces. I could make the argument that these two locations and schools face similar dilemmas to that of NMSU.
The truth is that a school's brand is very important in all this, and NMSU has clearly not made itself marketable enough. Their national perception — whether it's true or false — is not where it needs to be. Everyone saw this train barreling down the tracks, yet nothing appeared to be done — or at least not enough was done — to stop it, and now it's at the edge of a cliff. What if these options don't work out? It's a scary time.
Obviously if the Aggies were a top-20 team in football and had good attendance figures, they'd be in the Mountain West by now. But that obviously isn't the case — and with that being said, you still have to make yourself marketable and sell yourself. You have to be aggressive in this whole process and believe in what you're selling. I know NMSU's plight isn't an easy one, but it's also seemed reactive, not proactive.
With that being said, I do not see the Aggies dropping to the FCS, at least not when the dust settles on this most recent round. I just don't think Athletics Director McKinley Boston is going to allow it to happen.
Think worst case scenario is that they'll wind up as an independent, or that something will open up in the Sun Belt.
Again, the Aggies could really use a winning year and a bowl appearance in football. A couple winning seasons in a row would be ideal, and would make them instantly more attractive.
Again, either of the above options — Sun Belt or independent — would seem like short-term BandAids, but not long-term answers.
Follow me on Twitter @TeddyFeinberg